Exploring the World of Pediatric Advanced Life Support

When an infant or child is ill or injured, the actions healthcare professionals take can make a difference between life and death. PALS training provides healthcare professionals with medical protocols and guidelines for responding to critical situations involving infants and children.

While research shows that these guidelines can lead to better outcomes for pediatric patients, knowledge translation (KT) remains a challenge. This is especially true for pediatric resuscitation cases, which occur infrequently and are highly stressful.

What is PALS?

If you’re a nurse, physician, or paramedic, then you’ve probably heard of basic life support (BLS) and advanced cardiac life support (ACLS). These certifications train healthcare professionals to recognize and respond to medical emergencies. These include breathing difficulties, cardiac arrest, and a host of other conditions. The American Heart Association also offers a course for children in need of emergency care. The Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) course equips healthcare professionals with the tools to handle these critical incidents, and it’s vital for anyone who works with children.

Unlike BLS and ACLS, which focus on resuscitating adult patients, PALS is designed to assist in the treatment of infants and children who are experiencing critical illness or injury. PALS training teaches participants to respond to these situations using medical protocols designed to improve patient outcomes. These protocols include a systematic approach to pediatric assessment, effective resuscitation, and team dynamics.

PALS training includes hands-on skills sessions supervised by an instructor, a written exam, and performance evaluation. Students must pass these components of the course in order to become certified.

To prepare for the written test, many students utilize a free study guide and practice tests that are provided with their online course. These resources are available whenever a student wants them, and they help them learn the material more quickly and thoroughly.

As part of the course, students must also participate in two PALS core case scenarios and demonstrate their ability to act as a team leader in these emergency situations. In addition, they must complete several skill stations that require them to respond to simulated cardiovascular and respiratory emergencies, including managing airway obstruction, cardiac rhythm disturbances, and vascular access.

The American Heart Association also offers a PALS Plus Course, which adds 9 additional modules to the standard PALS curriculum. This option is ideal for experienced healthcare professionals who want to expand their knowledge and skills in treating critically ill pediatric patients. The American Heart Association recommends that the PALS Plus course be taken by healthcare professionals who work in pediatric settings, such as nurse practitioners, physician assistants, emergency medical technicians, respiratory therapists, and others.


Those who have completed a basic life support (BLS) course or advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) course know how to save a person’s life during an emergency by administering chest compressions, ventilation, and an automated external defibrillator. PALS training takes that knowledge to a new level and is designed for medical professionals who work with infants and children or encounter cardiopulmonary emergencies.

When treating a patient during a medical crisis, every second counts. Having someone trained in pediatric advanced life support can bridge the gap between when a medical emergency occurs and when treatment begins. This type of life-saving training allows a firefighter to administer critical care before an ambulance arrives, which can make all the difference in saving the lives of critically ill or injured children and infants.

As you can imagine, dealing with a child during a medical crisis is very different than caring for an adult. The American Heart Association realized this early on and developed PALS classes to provide healthcare professionals with the tools and knowledge they need to respond appropriately during pediatric emergencies.

In addition to preparing medical professionals for emergency situations involving infants and children, PALS training also helps improve communication, teamwork, and patient outcomes. The PALS certification process includes a hands-on simulation session to help medical personnel feel more prepared and confident in their abilities to handle an emergency.

PALS classes are recommended for all healthcare providers who may encounter pediatric emergency situations, including nurse practitioners, physician assistants, EMTs, and respiratory therapists. However, it is especially important for those who treat pediatric patients on a regular basis, as they are more likely to encounter life-threatening conditions.

Having a PALS certification can open up more job opportunities and allow you to grow as a medical professional by working in a variety of environments. Being PALS certified can even increase your salary if you are a nurse. If you are looking to advance in your career, earning a PALS certificate can set you up for success and help you move into management positions.

PALS Online Courses

Online PALS courses offer a convenient way to study the medical procedures designed for emergency treatment of infants and children. The course curriculum includes the recognition and treatment of life-threatening pediatric emergencies, including cardiac arrest, respiratory distress, and shock. The courses also cover airway management and pediatric trauma prevention, recognition, and treatment. The course ends with a hands-on skills session to test your ability to treat pediatric patients, such as child 1-rescuer CPR, child bag-mask device ventilation, and relief of choking.

Many healthcare professionals need to be PALS certified; in some situations, their employers require them to take the course. For instance, nurses, physician assistants, paramedics, and ER and intensive care unit staff may need to be PALS-certified in order to work with pediatric patients. In addition, if they’re responsible for the administration of medications in children, it’s important for them to have advanced life support certification.

Taking an online PALS course is one of the most effective ways to get the certification you need. The flexibility of online learning allows you to study at your own pace, which is often more effective than studying in a classroom setting. Plus, you can usually complete the course in less time — a benefit especially helpful for people needing to renew their PALS certification.

Another perk of online PALS classes is that you can access the free study guide and practice tests that are included with most programs, which you’d typically have to pay extra for in a traditional classroom setting. These tools allow you to ensure you understand the information and can pass the test, so you don’t have to worry about wasting your money or repeating the course later on. In addition, when you take a PALS class online, you can often earn your certificate in as few as eight hours — which is the same amount of time it takes to complete an in-person PALS course. You’ll then receive an official AHA PALS provider card valid for two years.

PALS Requirements

Rapid and appropriate action can be the difference between life and death when medical emergencies occur. This is especially true for infants and children who are at risk of respiratory or cardiovascular emergencies. In order to effectively respond to pediatric emergencies, healthcare professionals need a set of guidelines and protocols they can follow. This is the purpose of pediatric advanced life support or PALS.

Whether they work in the hospital, a private practice, or an emergency response vehicle, PALS certification allows healthcare providers to treat critically ill patients and improve patient outcomes. The American Heart Association offers online and in-person classes for individuals wanting to earn PALS certification. These courses are typically comprised of both didactic instruction and hands-on training. The didactic portion teaches the students the fundamental concepts of pediatric resuscitation algorithms through lectures, videos, and interactive learning activities. The hands-on portion of the course involves simulated pediatric emergencies. Participants can use mannequins to practice various skills, including opening the airways, performing chest compressions, and using an automated external defibrillator (AED).

PALS courses are designed for individuals who direct or participate in the management of cardiopulmonary emergencies, respiratory emergencies, and shock management in infants and children. This includes physicians, physician assistants, nurses, paramedics, and advanced-level prehospital providers.

A PALS certification can lead to improved patient outcomes and enhance a healthcare provider’s employability. It can also provide confidence and comfort in responding to pediatric emergencies, which is vital to providing high-quality care.

To earn a PALS certificate, individuals must complete the online HeartCode® PALS Part 1 program and attend a face-to-face AHA PALS Part 2 class with an AHA PALS instructor. Upon completion, the individual will receive an AHA card valid for two years. Individuals can find a PALS class by searching the AHA website for “PALS” and their location. Seattle Children’s Health offers a number of PALS classes for internal and external / community participants through its Learning Management System, Grow@SC. Please visit our Life Support Certifications page on CHILD to access the registration links for the PALS class of your choice.