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Stroke Certification Requirements for Healthcare Professionals

When a stroke occurs, rapid action is critical to prevent irreversible brain damage and mitigate the level of disability that the patient may suffer in the long-term. Recognizing the signs of stroke and responding accordingly is critical for healthcare professionals working with adult patients. As a result, clinicians practicing in pre-hospital and hospital settings alike are required to have up-to-date stroke certification demonstrating knowledge of and proficiency in the latest protocols to effectively recognize and respond to stroke.

There are four primary certifications addressing recognition and emergency response protocols for patients with stroke. Stroke certification requirements vary by clinical area of practice, so healthcare professionals are encouraged to understand the differences among the stroke certification options and identify which certifications apply to their professional areas.

Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) Course

The Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) program provides a set of skills that can be appropriately provided by healthcare professionals to an individual requiring immediate life-saving resuscitation. Because stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States, protocol for recognizing and responding to stroke in the adult patient is a key component of the ACLS Course.

Who needs ACLS certification? All healthcare professionals likely to encounter adult patients are required to have an up-to-date ACLS certification. This includes healthcare providers in both prehospital and hospital settings, including physicians, PAs, nurses and emergency medical services (EMS) and fire department personnel.

Stroke Prehospital Care Course

Stroke Prehospital Care is designed to increase prehospital care providers' knowledge about the two types of stroke, and also aims to demonstrate potential stroke-related complaints. This course teaches the pathophysiology and risk factors of stroke, as well as recognition, assessment and management of potential stroke.

Who needs a Stroke Prehospital Care certification? All out-of-hospital medical professionals and emergency medical services (EMS) personnel in acute medical practice, as well as any healthcare providers who want to improve their knowledge of stroke treatment.

Stroke Hospital Care Course

Stroke Hospital-Based Care is designed to provide healthcare professionals with high level information and training on the assessment, diagnosis, treatment and management of stroke, as well as the complications of stroke and stroke mimics.

Who needs a Stroke Hospital-Based Care certification? This course is intended for in-hospital healthcare providers including physicians, nurses, residents, nurse practitioners and physician assistants who want to enhance their stroke knowledge and/or receive continuing education credits.

Acute Stroke Course

The Acute Stroke course provides training on the symptoms, diagnosis and management of ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke, as well as the complications of stroke. Acute Stroke provides a higher level of information for the experienced healthcare provider, covering treatment from the field to the emergency department as well as extensive in-hospital critical care and rehabilitation.

Who needs an Acute Stroke certification? The Acute Stroke course is intended primarily for in-hospital healthcare personnel, and is particularly geared toward the experienced healthcare provider. Physicians, PAs, nurses and pharmacists are likely to require Acute Stroke certification.


The information included in this article is based on the 2005 guidelines for CPR, first aid and advanced cardiovascular care.