Hoping to better represent both their own interests and those of the public they serve, a group of U.S. paramedics has launched the American Paramedic Association (APA). Their action includes issuing an official manifesto that “provides a blueprint for American paramedics to achieve autonomy and self-regulation through their nomenclature, degree requirements, residency programs, and also introduces the concept of an American College of Paramedics,” said an APA news release.
Other professional groups across the emergency medical services have already signaled willingness to work with the APA to achieve mutual goals. This includes the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians (NAEMT) and the International Association of Flight and Critical Care Paramedics (IAFCCP).
Why the APA?
The impetus behind the APA is a desire among U.S. paramedics to deal more directly and efficiently with issues related to their profession.
“We didn’t find any other associations that were advocating for paramedics in the way we felt paramedics needed advocated for,” says APA President Nick Nudell, who helped found the group and is a practicing paramedic in Colorado. “As a like-minded group of paramedics, we decided to found the APA to do the kind of advocacy we feel is needed.”
According to Nudell the existing emergency medicine medical services associations have their own areas of focus, but none provide the degree of attention to paramedicine the APA’s members are seeking. “Nobody was speaking for paramedics,” he says.
What It Wants
The APA’s goals are spelled out on its website, americanparamedics.org, and in its Paramedic Manifesto:
The American Paramedic Association is a member-based organization setting forth a new agenda for the future of the discipline of paramedicine driven by its professional paramedic members. We are committed to professionalizing paramedic practice across America and to ensuring the safety of the public we serve while promoting the advancement of the profession through autonomy and self-regulation.
APA members want to define paramedics’ scope of medical practice, the nomenclature (terminology) used to describe their profession and its activities, and minimum educational standards. “American Advanced Care Paramedics should require a minimum of an associate degree in paramedicine, although they should quickly transition to a bachelor’s degree,” the manifesto says.
APA members also want to define national paramedic certification, professional regulation, and state licensing rules. “The standards set by the College of Paramedics will far exceed those set by any state,” the manifesto says. “Professional American paramedics who are nationally certified by the NREMT and members of the national College of Paramedics should be granted licensure that includes independent practice by all states and territories.”
Reaction to the APA
The APA’s creation is being positively and graciously greeted by the NAEMT and IAFCCP.
“NAEMT respects the right of all EMS professionals to associate with the professional group or groups they desire to,” says NAEMT President Matt Zavadsky. “We recognize that membership in any association is an individual choice, and we work very hard to earn our members’ support and trust through projects that address issues such as workplace violence, mental health and wellness, and EMS payment reform, and initiatives that help advance our profession as a provider of prehospital and out-of-hospital emergent, urgent, and preventive medical care.”
After noting that NAEMT is “an inclusive organization that welcomes EMS professionals at all training levels and from all delivery model,” Zavadsky adds it’s happy to work with the APA. “One of NAEMT’s core values is the belief that collaboration within the EMS profession and within the larger healthcare community is essential to addressing the key challenges in delivering high-quality EMS,” he says. “NAEMT has one of the best track records of collaborating with other EMS organizations to advance our profession. We are very open to working with all EMS organizations.”
IAFCCP President Ryan Walter is similarly upbeat about working with the APA, although he questions the notion that paramedics have been underrepresented.
“I think there are associations out there that are willing and ready to advocate for the needs of paramedics,” Walter says. “If there is the perception that there is a void of representation, I would first ask, ‘Have you reached out to work with them?’”
This said, Walter was clear the IAFCCP is willing to work with the APA. “With the right opportunity, we would love to work with any association or organization,” he says. “We understand that when addressing the challenges of an industry, no one person or group can accomplish solutions alone.
“Although we are different in our approaches, ultimately we all want the advancement of paramedics. For paramedics who feel there is a void in representation on their behalf, I encourage them to review the American Paramedic Association’s manifesto and see what they are about. Ultimately I encourage paramedics to be engaged as our profession continues to evolve in scope, balance, and effectiveness.”
A written response from Peter Dworsky, president of the International Association of EMS Chiefs (IAEMSC), was more cautious.
“Many of the issues identified and exposed by the American Paramedic Association have been previously identified by various stakeholders within EMS, and to that end those organizations have been working tirelessly toward advancing those goals,” wrote Dworsky. “Based on the statements in the American Paramedic Association manifesto, it is difficult to determine if they are in support of the current work the stakeholders have accomplished or envision another process for change to take place.
“The American Paramedic Association is an entirely new entity, and we do not know who its affiliates are or what engagement they have had to date,” he added. “Because of the limited performance and statements by the American Paramedic Association, it is difficult to ascertain what their true mission is and how they will accomplish it. Knowing some of the attributes of the principals involved in the APA, we look forward to collaborating on projects that are in alignment with the mission of the IAEMSC and having frank discussions with those that are contrary to our positions… The International Association of EMS Chiefs works wholeheartedly in a collaborative manner with any organization seeking to advance the cause of improving the provision of prehospital emergency medical care to the patients in the communities across the United States.”
At present the APA is focused on alerting America’s roughly 900,000 EMTs, Advanced EMTs, and paramedics to the association’s existence and what it stands for. “We started with the manifesto just to let people know what we’re going to be doing,” says Nudell. “Our goal is to establish a common vision for paramedics for the future, which isn’t easy when you’re working with 900,000 people.”
Going forward, “we are looking at how to develop a grassroots movement of paramedics all around the country. This means creating the association on a state-by-state basis.”
James Careless is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to EMS World.