Last spring, David Page, a longtime EMS instructor and a paramedic with Allina Medical Transportation in St. Paul, MN, was named “Educator of the Year” by the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Board of Trustees. He was chosen from among the state’s 19,000 state and community college instructors. As part of the award process, Page submitted a 200-page portfolio describing his teaching philosophy, curriculum and accomplishments, and why he became an EMS teacher.
“I was a young paramedic who believed high training standards in an academic setting would raise EMS to a new level of professionalism, recognition and economic reward,” he wrote. “My dream was, and still is, to do exactly what I’m doing. To care for sick and injured patients in the uncontrolled out-of-hospital world and help others learn to do the same.”
Page has a BA from Macalester College in St. Paul and an MS in experiential education from Minnesota State University. He has coauthored a textbook and contributed to another, written numerous EMS research papers, and is on the board of advisers for the UCLA Prehospital Care Research Forum.
The following excerpted interview can be found in its entirety on the Best Practices in Emergency Services website at www.emergencybestpractices.com.
You said you started teaching with a lot of field EMS experience but little knowledge of how to be a teacher. What have you learned along the way?
In 2000, I took a sabbatical from Inver Hills. Part of my project was to work as a paramedic in a high-performing EMS system outside Minnesota. I wanted to see if I could pass their entrance tests, but also learn from the inside out what made this a great organization. With more than a decade of field experience, I was treated like a rookie. The acculturation and hazing in the orientation process marked me forever. I still see it as a case in how not to teach. I returned from this experience with a bittersweet taste in my mouth about how EMS can chew up new students and new graduates. Since that time, I have worked to be a kinder, gentler and more motivational teacher.
What’s your proudest achievement as an instructor?
Working on the ambulance, where I can see the good work our graduates are doing, is the most rewarding. Another project I’ve been involved with is the EMS Academy—a program for low-income youth we’ve been doing with the St. Paul Fire Department to get more individuals with diverse ethnic backgrounds into EMS. We’ve taken people in extreme poverty, the children of single parents who were homeless, and helped them get jobs as EMTs. I’m proud that our program at Inver Hills has gained national attention for innovation, first in terms of providing a degree, but also for creating FISDAP, a Web-based application to track student experience and test critical thinking skills—achievements that help with accreditation. Our program has a near-100% pass rate on the National Registry.
What is the biggest challenge facing EMS education?
EMS educators have this incredible amount of information they need to cram into a short period of time and a very high standard to achieve. We have to graduate people who not only know the material, but can perform the skills and think critically during life-and-death emergencies.
How can EMS leaders/managers help new employees coming out of the education system reach their potential?
Employers need to partner with educational institutions. Employers should cultivate and pay preceptors more or educate them to be better trainers, but they typically don’t. Ambulance services think it’s the educator’s job to provide training and are not willing to let us place them there for the extended time they need to become competent, or cultivate preceptors to improve the experience for students. They say, “Any one of our employees is competent and can be a preceptor,” even though that’s not true.