National Education Agenda: Addressing the EMS Community's Challenges for 2012

There are three hot topics around EMS education right now:

  • The requirement for paramedic training from an accredited program by January 2013 in order to be eligible to take the National Registry Exam
  • Whether there should be a single national testing agency
  • Whether there should be a single accreditation agency for EMS paramedic programs

On March 28, Fire Chief Rob Brown and David Becker, treasurer and vice-chair respectively of the IAFC’s EMS Section, participated in the National Emergency Medical Services Advisory Council (NEMSAC) Roundtable on the EMS Education Agenda for the Future: A Systems Approach (PDF). The Roundtable was held to provide the NEMSAC with stakeholder input about the EMS Education Agenda for the Future.

During the meeting, a review of the history and an overview of the EMS Education Agenda provided the background on its development and what it includes. An update was given on the agenda’ current implementation and the states’ status in implementing paramedic program accreditation by January 2013, now required by the National Registry of EMTs.

Three panel discussions were held: the first considered the EMS community’s perspectives. Panel members presented information to support the current agenda or to call for a new EMS Education Agenda to be developed.

A second panel looked at where we wanted to be and whether to revise the agenda now, later or not at all, as well as what the agenda should look like if it were to be revised. Also discussed was whether broad changes are needed that may include the need to look at the Practice Blueprint and the Scope of Practice and Education Standards.

The third panel discussed next steps, providing information on how EMS education could have a positive impact on patient care and ways the agenda might be revised to maximize the impact. Members of the panel provided examples of methods on how education affects patient care delivery.

So, what does this mean to each fire department and the fire chief?

Certainly, the requirement of all paramedic education programs to be nationally accredited will have some impact in those states or areas that haven’t required it in the past. Will it decrease the number of paramedics trained each year? It’s unlikely to do so. The number of paramedic training programs will likely decrease, but that doesn’t equate to fewer trained paramedics.

Will it improve the quality of paramedics trained? Mostly certainly yes, accreditation provides a review from an outside agency to ensure a consistent level of education based on a national standard of education.

There has been a fear that the fire and emergency service would be eliminated by this accreditation requirement. That is not the case; several fire departments are currently accredited and several more are in the process to become accredited. The IAFC is a board sponsor on the Committee on Accreditation of Education Programs of Emergency Medical Services Professions and is actively involved in the activities of the board.

The questions about a single certification and single accreditation agency will be a topic discussed in a later article.

A key to remember is that this doesn’t affect your current paramedics. It doesn’t affect continuing education of your current paramedics. It does mean that in the future the paramedics you hire will be trained from an accredited program that meets a national standard. That is a standard that every fire chief needs to support.

Chief David Becker (Ret.), MA, EMT-P, EFO, is vice chair of the IAFC’s EMS Section.

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