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What can I Expect During a BLS Test?

By Marlene Garcia
Updated May 17, 2024
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To acquire basic life support (BLS) certification, expect to answer questions on a written test and also perform life-saving techniques in scenarios designed to test how you would react in the field. A BLS test gauges the student's knowledge of the proper way to handle a heart attack or stroke victim, a person who is choking, an electrocution patient, and trauma scenes. Be prepared to quickly identify symptoms, assess the patient, and apply life-saving measures as part of the BLS test.

A BLS test will include questions and scenarios using cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). It will determine if you know how to position a victim, and what signs should be evident before CPR begins. The questions and scenarios might deal with a patient suffering a drug overdose, drowning, electrocution, or heart attack. Your knowledge of the different methods of CPR for adults, children, and infants will be evaluated.

Emergency measures to help a choking victim are also part of the BLS test. You will be tested on your assessment of the patient, whether you have alerted emergency medical services of the situation, properly opened an airway, and if CPR is appropriate for the victim. These tests are generally performed on mannequins set up at different stations as part of the BLS test. Sometimes a coach is present to provide information about the scene if the patient is unable to respond to questions.

Proper usage of an automated external defibrillator (AED) is also a component of the BLS test. The devices send a shock to the heart to restart it when other life-saving measures are not working. You will need to know when to use the AED, the number of times to shock the heart, and what to do if the patient is a child and you only have access to adult-sized AED equipment.

For some parts of the test, a volunteer might be used to portray a victim of trauma. This person might be in shock, bleeding, or suffering from broken bones or joints. Your job entails questioning the patient to obtain a medical history, if possible, take vital signs, and begin first aid treatment until more advanced medical help arrives.

On some BLS tests, you must also determine if a scene is safe before entering to determine the number of patients affected and their conditions. Safety of the emergency crew might be critical at a fire, violent crime scene, or any situation that could place the first aid team in danger. In some cases during the BLS test, a coach may tell you the scene is safe to enable you to proceed to the next step.

Some BLS testing procedures also assume you have emergency medical technicians available if questions arise or information should be shared. On typical exams, scenarios are set up that require one rescuer, while other tests evaluate two students working together. This often enables the evaluator to see how you work as a team performing CPR or other first aid duties.

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