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Education/Training

A Degree for Me But Not for Thee

I find it interesting that the national fire service organizations (International Association of Fire Chiefs, International Association of Fire Fighters, National Volunteer Fire Council, and National Fire Protection Association) are all opposed to degree requirements for paramedics when they’ve been advocating for fire service personnel to earn degrees for years.

The U.S. Fire Administration established the Fire and Emergency Services Higher Education (FESHE) network of emergency services-related education and has established standards of excellence and model curricula for fire service- and emergency medical service-related degrees. FESHE’s mission is to “establish an organization of post-secondary institutions to promote higher education and to enhance the recognition of the fire and emergency services as a profession to reduce loss of life and property from fire and other hazards”1

In a 2016 article for the IAFC’s On Scene, Greg Barton, deputy chief of the Beverly Hills (Calif.) Fire Department and Western Division director at large for the IAFC’s Executive Fire Officer Section, wrote, “The fire service has always been respected for what firefighters do for their communities. However, one way to improve our desire for professionalism is to increase our formal education to stay on par with other professional organizations.”2

There are numerous articles in the fire service journals regarding the need for degrees in the fire service. A few of those are noted in the references.3–5 Yet the IAFC released a positon paper in August 2018 titled “Oppose Proposed Degree Requirements for Accredited Paramedic Programs.”6 And the IAFC, IAFF, NVFC, and NFPA released a joint statement in December 2018 entitled “Opposition to Proposed Degree Requirements for Accredited Paramedic Programs.”7 In addition, in January 2019 the IAFC’s EMS Section released a “tool kit of resources” to help fire services push back on the concept of degrees for paramedics.8

Why would the fire service support degrees for firefighters, then oppose degrees for paramedics? Let us know your thoughts!

References

1. U.S. Fire Administration. About the Fire and Emergency Services Higher Education Initiative, https://www.usfa.fema.gov/training/prodev/about_feshe.html.

2. Barton G. Executive Officer Leadership: Formal Education Needs in the Fire Service. IAFC On Scene, https://www.iafc.org/on-scene/on-scene-article/executive-officer-leadership---formal-education-needs-in-the-fire-service.

3. Watters B. Why Would a Firefighter Need a College Education to “Pull Hose”? Firehouse, https://www.firehouse.com/careers-education/article/10468951/why-would-a-firefighter-need-a-college-education-to-pull-hose.

4. Harmes J. Why Every Fire Officer Should Have an Advanced Degree. FireRescue, https://www.firerescuemagazine.com/articles/print/volume-3/issue-2/training-0/why-every-fire-officer-should-have-an-advanced-degree.html.

5. Byrne D. A College Degree Is More Than a Piece of Paper. Firehouse, https://www.firehouse.com/careers-education/article/10469628/what-does-a-college-degree-do-for-a-firefighter.

6. International Association of Fire Chiefs. Position Statement: Oppose Proposed Degree Requirements for Accredited Paramedic Programs, https://www.iafc.org/docs/default-source/1assoc/position-paramedic-degree-requirement.pdf?sfvrsn=e249840d_2.

7. International Association of Fire Chiefs, International Association of Fire Fighters, National Fire Protection Association, National Volunteer Fire Council. Joint Position Statement: Opposition to Proposed Degree Requirements for Accredited Paramedic Programs, https://www.iafc.org/docs/default-source/1ems/iafc-iaff-nfpa-nvfc-joint-position-statement-on-paramedic-education-requirements-12-30-18.pdf?sfvrsn=b588800d_2.

8. International Association of Fire Chiefs. Opposing Degree Requirements for Paramedic Certification, https://www.iafc.org/topics-and-tools/resources/resource/EMSDegreeRequirements.

John Todaro, BA, NRP, RN, TNS, NCEE, is assistant director in the College of Nursing at the University of South Florida in Tampa. He is a member of the EMS World editorial advisory board.

 

Comments

Submitted byjasonhums on 02/04/2019

I was just reviewing a joint position statement on paramedic education by the International Association of Flight and Critical Care Paramedics, National Association of EMS Educators, and the National EMS Management Association from October 2018 which stated:

"The National Association of EMS Educators, the National
EMS Management Association, and the International
Association of Flight and Critical Care Paramedics believe
the time has come for paramedics to be trained through a
formal education process that culminates with an associate degree."

As a paramedic educator I would also like to hear directly from the boards of the International Association of Fire Chiefs, etc for their rationale to oppose education for paramedics but support it for fire personnel who work with them side by side.

The IAFC was one of many organizations that participated in the EMS Agenda 2050 and in the document
"A future EMS system will rely on a strong backbone
of responders with training to provide immediate
lifesaving care. Supplementing and overseeing that
level of response will be a highly educated EMS
professional providing more advanced care."

In all these documents no one is saying that everyone should be required to have a degree. Why wouldn't we want the highest level of out of hospital patient care provider to be "highly educated"?

Submitted bypb@paramedics.com.au on 02/07/2019

Given the complexities in delivering appropriate and safe patient care they should look at what countries like Australia and the UK are doing, where the standard entry point is a Bachelor's degree. This also then has the flow on benefit of post graduate degrees for intensive care paramedics, flight paramedics, community paramedics etc and research.

Submitted byJim Todd on 02/09/2019

Taking only the Paramedic course only with no additional knowledge is like Nurses taking only nursing courses. There is a great advantage to having background in sciences, math, writing and even history.
Many fire services want to take over EMS but they apparently don't have much interest in really developing the very best care givers. Perhaps they don't want them to develop a career track that might take them away from fighting fires. Jim Todd

Submitted byCharles Hambelton on 02/11/2019

I recall 30 years ago, when I actually worked in EMS, some fire service agencies were almost anti-EMS. They viewed themselves as fire service agencies first and foremost, and were involved in EMS only because public policy was forcing it upon them. Oakland Fire Department was like that. I don’t believe they employed any Basic EMTs, let alone any intermediate or advanced.

Could it be that these organizations still have similar underlying sentiments? By stifling the advancement of EMS, the nature and image of fire agencies remains unchanged, even though in reality much if not the majority of their work is in EMS.

Of course, money may be at issue. Paramedics in the private sector with Bachelors degrees may be viewed as competition.

Submitted bychristhosr on 02/12/2019

At the same time that we have been having a continuing nursing "shortage" there is an increasing movement toward requiring a BSN (see below). At our college AS students in nursing enter an online BSN degree program in the 4th semester of their AS degree because that is what the job market demands. Nurses know how establish a labor market that maximizes wages and opportunity--that is why so many good medics leave EMS to become RNs. Fire departments and commercial ambulance services know that an AS degree is a threat to the disposable labor that most medics provide in an all ALS you-call-we-haul environment. Paramedics should be a resource not a commodity.
Increased clinical sophistication and responsibility without an EMS specific career path and limited job prospects is what most employers want for you. A portable college degree, national certification/reciprocity, and specialization (CCT, aeromedical, MIH, Advanced Practice Paramedic, etc.) is something they will always resist.

https://www.nursinglicensure.org/.../adn-program-future.html

Submitted bydrparasite on 02/27/2019

"In a 2016 article for the IAFC’s On Scene, Greg Barton, deputy chief of the Beverly Hills (Calif.) Fire Department and Western Division director at large for the IAFC’s Executive Fire Officer Section, wrote, “The fire service has always been respected for what firefighters do for their communities. However, one way to improve our desire for professionalism is to increase our formal education to stay on par with other professional organizations.”2" great statement, but it's taken completely out of context.

Here is the full statement from Greg Barton: "The fire service has always been respected for what firefighters do for their communities. However, one way to improve our desire for professionalism is to increase our formal education to stay on par with other professional organizations. Fire chiefs are essentially running corporations and they need the education to be successful in today’s business world."

They are advocating for degrees for executive personnel (Chiefs), not line firefighters.

Even your 4th source is titled "Why Every Fire Officer Should Have an Advanced Degree." Every Supervisor (Captains and Lts), not line staff.

The Fire Service support degrees for supervisors and management; not entry level firefighters. Paramedic isn't a supervisory job; it's entry level.

Context matters.

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