CPR Certification and the American Heart Association
What is the AHA’s role in developing or vetting CPR training?
“Approved by the American Heart Association.”
“Accepted by the AHA.”
“Meets all American Heart Association requirements.”
You’ve likely heard or read statements like these regarding CPR training and certification many times, but do you really know what they mean? The underlying message implies that a CPR training program or certification must somehow come from — or receive a blessing from — the AHA.
The truth, however, might surprise you.
Let’s take a look at how CPR requirements are created. It starts with ILCOR…
What Is the International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation (ILCOR)?
ILCOR is the global organization that develops resuscitation protocols. ILCOR meets every five years to review outcomes from the prior years, using that data to update heart resuscitation protocols, including those for CPR.
Representation in ILCOR includes the following member councils from all parts of the globe:
- Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada
- European Resuscitation Council
- InterAmerican Heart Foundation
- Australia & New Zealand Committee on Resuscitation
- Resuscitation Council of Asia
- The Resuscitation Council of Southern Africa
- The American Heart Association
Each member is then responsible for sharing the new protocols determined by the council. In the case of CPR, this information is communicated through guidelines.
What Are the AHA’S CPR Guidelines?
In the United States, it is the American Heart Association that communicates guidance on CPR training programs based on the protocols and recommendations developed by ILCOR. This means that the AHA Guidelines are ILCOR’s guidelines. The AHA simply re-publishes them.
CPR training organizations then develop educational programs and systems around the AHA guidelines. These training groups include ProTrainings, The American Red Cross (ARC), the American Safety & Health Institute (ASHI), and the training arm of American Heart Association, and others.
So…What Does “AHA Certified” (or “Compliant” or “Approved” or “Accredited”) Really Mean?
The answer to this question depends on which term is used.
|Term or Phrasing||What It Means|
| Training is AHA-compliant
Training follows AHA Guidelines
|The training organization creates its own curriculum based on the guidelines developed by ILCOR and communicated by the AHA.|
| Training is approved by the AHA
Training is certified by the AHA
Training is accredited by the AHA
|Training is taught by independent instructors who have paid to use materials created by the training arm of the AHA.|
Is an AHA CPR Certification Better Than One From ProTrainings, American Red Cross, or Another Provider?
First, remember that any provider may develop and offer CPR training based on ILCOR recommendations — and that should always be an essential feature of any program you consider. That said, the American Heart Association is directly involved in developing those recommendations as an ILCOR member. However, the AHA is also responsible for clearly communicating and sharing those recommendations with all other providers and the general public as part of its role in promoting cardiac health and resuscitation.
Second, the American Heart Association’s CPR training courses are taught by independent instructors. These instructors are also able to lead CPR training for other providers, such as ProTrainings, ARC, or ASHI. As with any course or training, the quality depends on both the instructor and the course content.
The result is that training programs from multiple providers cover the same procedures based on the same medical research and scientific facts. So as long as a provider is following the ILCOR recommendations, no program is “better” than another, simply “different”.
The differences in CPR training programs appear when you evaluate individual instructors, the full course content (what material may be included beyond the most basic facts or steps in administering CPR), the method of delivery, the ease of scheduling, and more.
How Do I Select the Right CPR Training Program if They’re All Based on ILCOR Guidelines?
First, it’s always wise to confirm that a provider you’re considering adheres to ILCOR guidelines. You can do this by simply looking for ILCOR/AHA guidelines on a sample certification card, or by checking which state and national boards approve their certification.
Beyond following ILCOR guidelines, all CPR training isn’t the same. Some of the things you should consider when evaluating different providers include:
- Different learning methods such as online, in-person, or a combination
- Options for different levels of CPR training based on your job requirements
- If you’re running a CPR program for your organization: the ability to accommodate different staff shifts or locations, the ability to track certifications, available customer support, and LMS integration.