What is a ACLS Simulator?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 08 November 2019
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An advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) simulator is a teaching tool used in ACLS classes to offer care providers an opportunity to practice skills and get familiar with the ACLS protocol so they will know how to apply it in a real clinical situation. The ACLS simulator can be something like a dummy equipped with a computer, allowing instructors to program in scenarios and remotely control responses or allow the dummy to run a preset program. On a less sophisticated level, it may be a software program, where people enter their responses to prompts, and the software program simulates an unfolding clinical emergency.

ACLS is a collection of techniques and interventions available to care providers with adequate training when a patient goes into cardiac arrest. It goes beyond basic life support (BLS), the training provided by people who are likely to be first responders on a scene, and often needs to take place in a clinical setting. In addition to measures like cardiopulmonary resuscitation and defibrillation, it also includes the administration of medications to restart the heart and stabilize the patient.


With an ACLS simulator, students in an ACLS class are provided with a scenario. The simulator offers information about the patient and the circumstances, and people have to respond as if they are treating a real patient, providing interventions. As the simulation unfolds, the vital signs of the “patient” will change in response to what people do, and constant feedback will be provided so people can see how successful their interventions are.

If people make deadly mistakes during the simulation, the fake patient may die or develop a serious health compromise like brain damage. The ACLS simulator can determine the outcome on its own in response to the programmed information it stores, or the instructor can shape the direction of the resuscitation by changing parameters. Historically, instructors ran ACLS simulations with basic dummies and things like prompt cards with vital signs and reactions to interventions; the ACLS simulator provides a more sophisticated method of teaching people clinical skills.

Some medical facilities have ACLS simulators they keep on hand, because they offer ACLS classes regularly and want the equipment to be available. In other cases, a traveling instructor brings simulators for people to use during a class. An ACLS simulator can be quite expensive, especially in the case of complex medical dummies, and the same dummies used in ACLS simulations may also do double duty for things like trauma training, as other injuries and diseases can be simulated as well by adjusting the controls.


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