Tuesday, March 18, 2008

EMS Education Standards update

Last month I attended the National EMS Education Standards Stakeholder's Meeting in Washington, DC. Representatives from national EMS, fire, medical and government organizations were present to provide input to the project team.

The meeting was run by a professional facilitator. This resulted in meeting speak such as placing agenda items in the "parking lot" and requesting comments be "robust and succinct." While the inner child in me giggled when these phrases were used, the end result was a worthwhile meeting which I am happy to have attended.

I do have concerns from the meeting. The first is that controversial items such as accreditation of paramedic programs weren't the hot button I expected. I am afraid this means some stakeholders avoided the topic at the meeting but plan to oppose this in other arenas (e.g through political or other pressures on NHTSA).

The second area of concern is the instructional guidelines (IGs). The educational standards are broad stroke and conceptual. Instructional guidelines were initially proposed to help clarify the standards without being prescriptive as to content.

The instructional guidelines haven't been updated since the first draft of the standards. As we prepare to move to the third and final draft of the standards it looks like the IGs need to be trashed and begun again.

The primary issue noted by the project team is that the IGs are unfunded. They have been a bit of an albatross for the team--but a necessary one.

As an educator and textbook author I an deeply concerned about the process if the educational standards aren't accompanied by IGs. Interpretation of the standards without some clarification could be tragic for EMS education.

An example is patient assessment. The standards describe a primary and secondary assessment process but no further details are included. Now imagine authors such as myself and Mike O'Keefe, Joe Mistovich, and Walt Stoy and Tom Platt working separately writing a book and defining the steps of the assessment process. Everyone's would be different. Perhaps dramatically different. Every textbook/publisher could have a different assessment process. How would this be tested nationally?

IGs level the playing field. Without them there isn't a playing field at all.

I believe the education standards project is a step forward for EMS education. The less prescriptive process should make this more of a living document. IGs are a necessary item to assure some level of uniformity--at least until EMS practice and education matures and becomes less region- and state-centric similar to other medical disciplines.

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