Can it really have been 10 years since the release of the EMS Education Agenda for the Future: A Systems Approach?
It can and in fact has, and that makes it an excellent time for taking stock. States are now in various states of embracing the National EMS Education Standards--a defining feature of that instructional master plan, released last year--and besides, the authors invited it. With each of the Education Agenda's core components, they put to paper a vision of "Where We Want to Be in 2010."
The date is upon us. We haven't achieved everything they set out, but we've made good progress. Let's evaluate.
National EMS Core Content
The first of the Education Agenda's five key components, the Core Content describes the medical knowledge and skills needed by out-of-hospital providers. It was released in 2005, and the subsequent National Scope of Practice Model and National EMS Education Standards were built upon it.
Per the Agenda, the Core Content is to be updated every 5-7 years to reflect clinical advances and changes in EMS practice and education. That's not imminent quite yet, but there's a process for it defined, and having that mechanism available is necessary and valuable.
"I like the idea that we're going to revisit that content every 5-7 years," says Chris Nollette, EdD, NREMT-P, LP, president of the National Association of EMS Educators. "Medicine changes drastically every two years--we have major, major developments. It's important, with all the changes, the technology, the innovations, all the stuff going on, that we as educators revisit this information on a timely basis."
National EMS Scope of Practice Model
Released in 2006, the Scope defined four nationally recognized levels of EMS providers (emergency medical responder, EMT, advanced EMT and paramedic) and identified minimum entry-level knowledge and skills for each. That paved the way for the...
National EMS Education Standards
The standards, released last year, supplant the National Standard Curricula in defining the competencies, clinical behaviors and judgments required for entry-level EMS personnel at each level to practice. As many have noted, they are less prescriptive than the NSC, and enable new freedom to use approaches like problem-based learning, computer-aided instruction, distance learning and programmed self-instruction.
That's not happening without challenges. But it's seen as vital for delivering a fuller, more comprehensive EMS education that can serve a 21st century diversity of learners.
"The plan from the Education Agenda was that the standards would be less prescriptive, and allow some flexibility and different opportunities for student learning," says Debra Cason, RN, MS, EMT-P, who directed the project team that developed them. "We set broad standards that should allow for that. Hopefully, they'll also have a shelf life that's longer than the Curricula because of their less prescriptive nature."
With the new standards must come new instructional materials--textbooks, lesson plans, other aids and models and accoutrements. EMS publishers have moved quickly, and organizations like the National Association of State EMS Officials have worked to provide resources. The toolbox is a work in progress, but there's good help already available, and more coming rapidly, for the challenges educators face.
"When I talk to fellow educators, the biggest thing they're saying is they want help with the tools," says Nollette. "What are best practices? How do we up our instructor qualifications, so they're prepared to deal with these things? How do we determine our program requirements--do we need to strengthen those? Do we need to do preparatory work before students get into our programs? How do we bridge folks from what we have now to these new standards?"