Be wary of some online BLS courses

Previously I've written about Online CPR courses. They're easy to take, convenient and affordable. My earlier post was about the Online American Heart Association Courses. There has been confusion about them in the past and some clinical providers didn't realize that the online portion was only Part 1 of the course. There is also a Part 2 (or Part 3) which involves a practical skills component. Overall if you follow the guidelines, complete all the required parts, and successfully pass any online or practical tests you will receive your certification.

However you have to be rather careful about which online courses you take. Recently I had a nursing educator unfortunately get scammed by an online site promising her a card, which she was able to print her own card at the end of the online course. However the large Red Flag for me was when she called me to schedule a practical exam and then told me she was able to print her own card, AHA programs do not allow participants to print their own cards from a website.

This particular site mimicked itself after both the AHA and ARC, promising "ILCOR Recommended" and "meets all ECC 2009 Guidelines". The name of the course was a mix of the AHA BLS for Healthcare Providers and the ARC CPR for the Professional Rescuer. For the reduced price of $19.95 she took an online course and was able to print a rather official looking card at the end. There was no practical skills component required. Having taken the AHA BLS for Healthcare Providers Online before she called me to schedule the skills test, not realizing she had been scammed. It was such an awkward phone situation to have to explain to her what had happened and that I could not just give her a practical test, she had to take the AHA written exam and then the practical in order for me to be able to have an AHA card issued to her. I felt crummy about it and wanted to emphasize that if only she had called me first.... but at this point the damage was done and we have since met, tested appropriately and she will soon receive her AHA card. In conversing about this situation with my Training Center Coordinator I also found that this has also happened with advanced level cardiac courses and other hospital staff being scammed by some online sites.

My caution to everyone is, if you need CPR certification - whether you are a Healthcare Provider or other care provider, and you are looking at online courses, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, make sure you are taking a course through a valid source and that THE ONLINE COURSE REQUIRES A PRACTICAL SKILLS COMPONENT WITH A LOCAL INSTRUCTOR. Yes, I meant to type that in all caps because I feel it's important and I'd be happy to shout it from the top of really tall hill. I can only speak on very familiar terms with American Heart Association Courses, but the BLS for Healthcare Providers Online and the Heartsaver AED Online programs both require a second session with an instructor to provide a practical skills session and testing. I have seen another online program not sponsored by the AHA and ARC that required meeting with that organizations instructor for the practical skills component.

If something seems like a bargain online there is a good chance that it isn't. In this recent situation the 'bargain' price of $19.95 was still more than the $17.50 the AHA charges for the BLS Online course. Other advanced level course may try to charge you more for a card that is basically worthless. Most clinical locations will not accept a card from a program that does not contain a practical skills component.

So when looking to take a class, or when you need a renewal look at online courses with a slightly cynical view. If it is not a nationally recognized organization like the American Heart Association or American Red Cross, check their credentials, check to see if your employer will accept the course and check to see if there is a practical skills component. If the answer to any of these queries is no, then don't sign up for the course and look for one that meets the certification requirements you and your employer need.


  1. What a great post! The problem is sorting the legit sites from the scams. I found a couple sites that cater to or require you to take a hands on portion. The only thing is I don't think the AHA or ARC recognizes or "sponsors" any competitors. If you can find the good sites that are straight forward with you then online cpr classes are the way to go!

  2. Thanks for your comment John! The challenge is that there are so many online programs out there. For many of us with busy schedules online courses are the answer to how to fit in another course or refresher! I just hate seeing anyone get scammed. I can't speak for the AHA, but I don't think they're really in the business of sponsoring other ECC course providers.

    When in doubt any program worth its salt will have a practical skills component. It's like learning to drive a car. Reading the book & taking the test doesn't mean you can actually drive the car, you have to practice first. If your loved one needed cardiac care you'd want to know that the clinical staff actually had hands on practice time before treating the patient. Take care, Gail


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