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EMS Anniversaries: NREMT Marks 50 Years of EMS Certification

2020 will certainly be a year to remember, but it wasn’t all bad. A number of significant EMS-related events, services, and associations marked important anniversaries during this fateful year. This series authored by Dan Casciato highlights these milestones. See the Related Content box for other installments.

The National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. The nonprofit organization, established in 1970, is the nation’s emergency medical services certification organization. 

“Our mission is to protect the public by establishing standards and measuring competency at entry level and throughout EMS professionals’ careers,” explains Bill Seifarth, the NREMT’s executive director. 

National EMS certification is an important component of public protection. The National Registry was created after President Lyndon Johnson’s Committee on Highway Traffic Safety recommended a national certification agency to establish uniform standards for training and examination of EMS personnel. Prior to that a national certification standard for emergency medical care did not exist. Today almost all U.S. states and territories require National Registry certification before they’ll issue a state license to practice.

Through its examinations and recertification measures, the Registry reduces burdens on the states. The organization is also focused on research, most notably through the EMS fellowship program and with a focus on workforce. 

A Sublime Celebration

Prior to COVID-19 NREMT had envisioned the celebration of its 50th anniversary in two halves—the first part of the year to celebrate the past, and the second to celebrate its future. The ongoing pandemic hamstrung those plans and left Seifarth with mixed emotions. 

“The events we’re experiencing across our nation today are not conducive to having a big celebration,” he says. “Unfortunately we have more of a sublime celebration of this momentous occasion as a result.

“Hopefully next year, we can actually celebrate by presenting at conferences about our 50 years. We’re going to be including this 50th year as part of that celebration, as we’ve experienced a lot of firsts in 2020. We are excited and proud of the organization. But we’re mindful of the circumstances we’re undergoing right now as a country.”

Milestones to Reflect On

The first milestone of the organization will always be the beginning, according to Seifarth. 

“The founding fathers who established our organization had the vision of serving the nation through the establishment of uniform standards for training and testing. This paved the road for shaping the EMS profession we know today,” he says. “Five decades later the National Registry is still doing its mission of protecting the public and plays an integral role in the national EMS system. 

Adoption of computer adaptive testing was another major milestone. 

“In 2007 we went from pencil and paper to adaptive testing to more securely and precisely measure competency. The National Registry was an early adopter of computer adaptive testing,” Seifarth says. “A related milestone occurred recently during this pandemic: We were a quick adopter of remote proctoring to deliver exams. Due to decreased capacity with testing centers, remote proctoring allowed us to administer exams securely and remotely. Initiating remote proctoring required an intense amount of hard work and under normal circumstances would have taken nearly a year. We did it in seven weeks. That was an incredible accomplishment.” 

Another highlight was development of the EMS research fellowship program.

“The National Registry is fortunate to have an EMS research fellowship program where we bring in students who can earn their PhD in epidemiology with a focus in EMS research,” says Seifarth. “They complete the program through The Ohio State University, work at the National Registry with our research team, and when they graduate they have publications related to EMS. The Registry has been and continues to be instrumental in fostering and bringing about research for the EMS profession.”

Looking Ahead

Last year the NREMT board approved an initiative called Strengthening the Core. The first element is a radical IT infrastructure overhaul. 

“We’re overhauling and improving our IT infrastructure because that’s the foundation that enables us to do our mission. Nearly everything we do at the National Registry depends on technology,” says Seifarth.

The second element of Strengthening the Core is to improve the certification exams. 

“We’re looking at new, innovative ways to administer our examinations to more precisely and efficiently assess competency in all domains,” Seifarth says. “[We’re] working closely with others in the certification and testing industry and bringing those best practices to EMS.” 

The third element is continued competency. 

“Just like with exams, we’re improving how we best ensure continued competency of EMS professionals throughout their careers. There have been advances in the measurement of competency, including the use of technology, data, microassessments, and more. We are working with experts in the EMS industry and other professions to explore innovations that could benefit the EMS community,” says Seifarth. “The National Registry’s focus on the continued competency initiative will take several years to complete and fully implement. These are three ways for us to prepare for the next 50 years and evolve as an organization to better do our mission of protecting the public.”

For more information visit www.nremt.org. 

Daniel Casciato is a freelance writer and social media consultant from Pittsburgh, Pa. He makes his living writing about health, law, social media, and technology. Follow him on Twitter at @danielcasciato. 

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