Continuing education can be pretty boring business. Not a lot of providers enjoy sitting through bone-dry three-hour lectures on the day's malady du jour. To the extent educators can liven things up, they'll get more engaged students who absorb and retain more.
In California, the Bay Area Paramedic Journal Club has hit upon a format that's participatory, free-spoken and self-directed--and providers are responding. The club now has around 300 area emergency services personnel receiving its class updates, and is drawing interest from other services looking to create similar groups.
"We haven't found a lot of other clubs like this," says BAPJC director Brian Oftedal, a longtime medic and lieutenant with the Oakland Fire Department. "We've heard from one other paramedic journal club in Canada, asking for advice on growing and how we've done what we've done so far, but mostly people are just looking for a foundation and how they can get something like this started."
The BAPJC isn't new--it's been around for close to 14 years now. But its format is novel: At quarterly dinners, members present EMS-relevant research and examine hot topics among a diverse attendance of emergency medical system players. This includes EMTs, paramedics, nurses and MDs from various regional EMS systems and ambulance companies, fire departments, hospitals and health departments. Even law enforcement providers occasionally show up when a topic pertains to them.
The hot meals and door prizes help get all these people in. The three hours of CE they get make it worthwhile. And the environment keeps it informal and fun.
"Depending on the topic, there can be some really lively discussion," says Oftedal. "We get everybody from brand-new paramedics to people doing their FTO or internship time to veteran providers who have been on the street for 30 years. We get a good variety of views that way."
The club was conceived as a field-based program and has always been run by front-line providers, but it's had the strong imprimatur of local physician leadership as well. Alameda County's longtime EMS medical director, James Pointer, MD, was a big supporter of field-based research. He retired in 2010, and while he hasn't yet been permanently replaced, the county's new interim medical director, Joseph Barger, MD, has attended club meetings for years as medical director in adjoining Contra Costa County.
Since the beginning, the BAPJC has also had the benefit of sponsors. Major medical companies such as Zoll, Physio-Control and Bound Tree Medical have lent support, as has AMR of Alameda County. These sponsors underwrite the dinners and prize items, and a number have developed strong, regular relationships with the club. Last year the club became a 501(c)(3) to better facilitate getting such help. Sponsors are invited to their meetings, where representatives can display their wares and answer questions.
Club meetings are limited to 50 participants, who sign up online on a first-come, first-served basis. Each meeting covers three topics--all research studies in years past, but now two studies and one "hot topic" that's dissected and debated. "Those include things that are going on in the industry now or that people can look forward to," says Oftedal.
Past topics have included things like terrorism, active shooters, critical incident stress management, 12-lead EKGs, post-resuscitation hypothermia, fentanyl, and various medical devices (e.g., ResQPOD, EZ-IO). Some practices and devices discussed have worked their way into local protocols. Archived events and papers are maintained for review on the club's website. Dinners are now being podcast as well, and soon those who can't attend the actual events should be able to earn Web-based CE by listening to them online and answering questions.