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Advanced Trauma Life Support June 17, 2010
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Bob Blumm, MA, PA-C, DFAAPA Past President, ACC About the Author
Bob Blumm, MA, PA-C, DFAAPA Past President, ACC

Beginning in October 2008 with the release of the 8th Advanced Trauma for Life Support (ATLS) course manual, “physician extenders”—including Advanced Practice Clinicians (APCs, nurse practitioners and physician assistants)—who complete the ATLS course will receive cards to document their participation. Published since 1980, the American College of Surgeons' ATLS course is taught in hospitals and institutions worldwide.

“The doctor who first attends to the patient has the greatest opportunity to impact outcome,” according to the ATLS Web site ( Now APCs can be recognized as accredited providers of this critical care.

This change in philosophy is almost 15 years in the making. Five years ago the best we could hope for as nonphysicians was inclusion of 25% nonphysicians in the course, which teaches only 16 students at a time—and this was at the discretion of the regional trauma director. A letter would be given after completion of the entire ATLS program that the APC attended the course. We have repeatedly requested the same certifying card that is given to doctors. At last, the opposition has relented. APCs are an important and integral member of the team, and this recognition is long overdue. As in many other hard fought battles, when we climb the hill and wave the flag, there are small numbers taking advantage. I hope this new breed of APC takes the time to apply for ATLS in their region.

Do you agree that certifying NPs and PAs is a great idea whose time has come? Will documentation that you have successfully completed the ATLS course positively affect your practice? Post a comment to tell us your thoughts about this important development. As more NPs and PAs find themselves on Trauma services at national hospital emergency rooms, this training becomes more important.
Bob Blumm, Chairman of the Clinician1 PA Advisory Board, is an instructor for the Trauma Evaluation And Management (TEAM) course, a program for medical students and NPs and PAs in emergency trauma departments. This is a preparatory program for the full ATLS course with certification. He will be offering a TEAM workshop at the summer GAPA meeting and the summer AFPPA meeting, and is available to teach the course through national or state associations.  

Bob Blumm, MA, PA-C, DFAAPA

Bob has received national recognition as a distinguished fellow of the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA). He is the past president of the Association of Plastic Surgery Physician Assistants, and was past-president of the American Association of Surgical Physician Assistants, past president of the American College of Clinicians and NYSSPA, as well as Chairman of the Surgical Congress of the AAPA. In addition, Bob received the John Kirklin MD Award for Professional Excellence from the American Association of Surgical Physician Assistants. Along with his associate, Dr. Acker, Bob was the first recipient of the AAPA PAragon Physician-PA Partnership Award.  He has been a contributing author of three textbooks, written 150 plus articles and is a sought out conference speaker throughout the United States.

The viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at Healthcare Staffing Innovations, LLC.

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Mary F. Frodermann FNP (Coos Bay, Oregon) on 15 Sep 2010 at 2:09 pm

I applaud your efforts. It is ridiculous to differentiate the certifications. You either pass or not. The certification should be based on performance, past and present knowledge. The certification should not be based on just a degree designation.

eric holden (portland, or) on 07 Jul 2010 at 7:45 pm

any response from acs?

Bob Blumm (Amityville, NY) on 25 Jun 2010 at 4:43 am

Hi Eric:
I will send an e-mail to the director at acs hqs and get an official statement. thanks for your input.

eric holden (portland, or) on 25 Jun 2010 at 1:16 am

the official atls cards given to pa's say "physician extender" across them in bright green. they are not the same as the md cards.

I am looking at my card right now.

see this acs link (page 2) for info on "physician extender cards".
also from the atls site:

Designed for doctors who care for injured patients

Standards for successful completion established for doctors

ACS verifies doctors' successful course completion

not trying to be arguementative but this has been a sore point with pa's for years(as you know). it's better now that we get a card but getting the same card as the docs would be even better.

Gerry Keenan (MDI Hospital ER-Bar Harbor Maine) on 24 Jun 2010 at 12:33 pm

Great Birthday present, Bob...BUT Both you and Mr. Holden are correct. Often the "correction" falls to the attendee PA... and often with some real "hassle factor". I have both certified and non certified or modified (ie. non lab) courses

Bob Blumm (Amityville, NY) on 23 Jun 2010 at 12:14 am

The response about not having a standard certification card is wrong. At least 30 PAs that have received their cards have thanked me and all are in emergency medicine. If you feel this response is wrong, contact the director of ATLS services at the American College of Surgeons. This has been a completed venture for more than a year in a half. Thanks.

eric holden (portland, oregon) on 22 Jun 2010 at 5:51 pm

although acs now gives cards to pa/np folks they still are not "certification cards" according to acs.
they say "physician extender" on them and document "attendance" and "completion"not certification despite the fact that failing the practical or written results in not receiving a "non-cert." card.....
acs needs to wake up and realize that in many situations the first provider running the trauma may not be a physician and grant ujs regular CERTIFICATION cards.....

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