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How long should I work before taking ACLS?

I have been working on a med-surg/telemetry/ICU stepdown floor since January 2009, and I have been off orientation since May. I would like to go for ACLS as I think it is important and would help increase my confidence at work. I'm just nervous that I do not know enough yet, and I don't want to look foolish. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

SummerGarden, ADN, BSN, MSN, RN

Specializes in ED, ICU, MS/MT, PCU, CM, House Sup, Frontline mgr.

i am getting acls certified next month and i graduated last december. most experienced nurses i know informed me that acls is hard for anyone who takes it the first time. however, the more you see the information, the easier it gets. so take it now. you will feel less "foolish" as you gain more experience from certification. at least that is what i am told....:D

Mariposa2009, BSN, RN

Specializes in Ortho/Neuro/MedSurg.

Well, I have limited work experience, but opted to take an ACLS class to increase my marketability. All you really have to do is read the book carefully and know all the algorithms. It does help to know basic ECG rhythms, but I'm sure with working on a telemetry/step down unit you are fairly familiar. However, if you still don't feel ready, you can always take an EKG course which is usually recommended before taking an ACLS course. Basically ACLS courses have 2 session. The 1st session is basically an intro where you will mainly watch videos and practice a mock megacode and other basic stuff. The 2nd session is usually where you take the written exam and preform a real megacode.

november17, ASN, RN

Specializes in Ortho, Case Management, blabla.

How long should you work? Well, if you're proficient at reading telemetry then there's no time limit. I got ACLS certified 1 year after I graduated. I'd recommend ACLS for everybody, not just to run a code but also to familiarize yourself with the whole process, the drugs, etc.


Specializes in med-surg, OR.

Hi, I agree with the above poster. If you are familiar with basic ECG rhythms, you should have no problem with ACLS, just study your book very well. I took mine 6 mos. after graduating, I was working general surgery at the time, but I had ICU experience from school and was taking a basic ECG course concurrently. You should do fine.

Reno1978, BSN, RN

Specializes in SRNA.

Get the book first, read it, and take the class. If you're comfortable with your ECG interpretation, you'll do fine. Success at the megacode is simple if you can memorize the algorithms that are provided for each scenario.

When you are no longer feeling quite so overwhelmed by all you have to learn as a new grad and are looking for the next step, then you are ready for ACLS.

webmansx, ASN, RN

Specializes in rehab.

(to the above poster)

Excellent answer!

diane227, LPN, RN

Specializes in Management, Emergency, Psych, Med Surg.

If you can take a basic EKG class first, I would do that. It will really help you. Then take an ACLs course. Basic EKG should be required for all RN's.


Specializes in LTC/Skilled Care/Rehab.

Some of my classmates have taken ACLS before getting a job. This is probably because the job market is really tight right now and they wanted something to give them an extra advantage over other applicants. I'm not sure if they passed the test or not.

Thanks for all your replies! I have taken a basic EKG class, so I think I'll get the ACLS book and start working on it!


Specializes in Hospice, Rehab.

I entered nursing school with ACLS and PALS as it is required for EMT Intermediates in my jurisdiction. And that's my key point. It's more a matter of willingness to master the material than a level of experience as a nurse. The ACLS course materials are also chock full of good information on stroke. I really do believe that every nurse should at least take the course once with a "go for it" attitude and good preparation. It helps you realize the value of teamwork, knowledge, and preparation, and how they add up to an immediate payoff for the patient in distress. Even if you fail miserably, you'll still have picked up information and gotten familiar with the kind of situations for which you weren't prepared in school.

Having said that, check with your ACLS educators for any preparatory work they feel you should have. Lots of hospitals have little prep courses tucked away that help you understand the sticking points better. Rhythm recognition is usually the hardest. Some folks get snagged by the drugs. The ACLS course works to build your knowledge of the algorithms and important background stuff. You'll be (un) surprised to find that what you don't know "could fill a book".

Do give it a try.


Specializes in Cardiac/ED.

I took ACLS as a fourth semester student about 2 months before graduation and because of it ended up on a Cardiovascular intervention floor. You are correct that it gives you a bit more confidence and increases your marketability if you ever want to move to tele or higher acuity floor.

My advice is don't wait...go for it! Do your pre-reading before the course and you should have no problem as they teach you all that you need to know to pass.

P2 my :twocents:

Ayvah, RN

Specializes in Med Surg, Specialty.

I'd suggest to take it right away; it gives valuable information for codes, and codes won't conveniently wait till you have ACLS done!

I plan to work on a telemetry floor after I graduate and pass my NCLEX God willing. Not sure if the telemetry floor at the hospital I currently work at requires ACLS. If not, I still plan to get my ACLS. Should I do my ACLS before I start working or after?


Specializes in Med-Surg, Cardiac.

ACLS isn't that hard. I've been taking it every 2 years for about 26 years now. It used to be a lot more stressful, but they've cut out the most stressful parts (mega-code, flash EKG rhythm test etc). If you're already working as a cardiac nurse you're ready. As a medic I found it hard to learn some of the meds that are only used in the hospital but now after a couple years as a cardiac nurse even that part isn't bad anymore.


Specializes in Med/Surg Nurse.

I started on a Med/Surg floor in January 2010 and took ACLS in November 2010 - I passed it right away, you'll do just fine as long as you pay attention in the classes. It helps to take a look at the booklet and review some of the meds before the 1st class. Good Luck.


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