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Guest Editorial: At EMS World Expo and Beyond, Learn to Teach, Teach to Learn

From the Senior Editorial and Program Director:

In my short time so far with EMS World, I’ve had the opportunity to be inspired by some pretty passionate educators. I’ve also seen incredibly eager learners: on social media, in print, online, and of course in person at EMS World Expo. I know I’ll see it again this year in New Orleans, the “Big Easy,” attendees soaking up new knowledge while also preparing to return home and educate their peers.  

Not much about this job could be described as “easy,” though.  We are faced with long hours and tough calls, life and work challenges, all while trying to keep abreast of the latest in evidence-based medicine. It’s impressive how we fit it all in.  

In this month’s guest editorial, flight medic and training officer Ami Tomaszewski skillfully describes this phenomenon as “the protégé effect,” and I think you’ll find her words fitting for October’s education theme.

So, while you’re attending sessions at Expo this year, listening to FOAMed on a podcast, or perhaps sitting at your post waiting for the next run, I know you’ll agree: EMS providers have an obligation to pass on knowledge to the next generation.  Not just 10- or 15-year-old knowledge, but also the most up-to-date knowledge you’ve taken the time to research and embrace.  

Read below for Ami’s call to action—her message will motivate you to never neglect the new guy.

—Hilary Gates


Here is some food for thought: Educators are the ultimate learners. 

In prehospital medicine it can be easy to fall into the black hole of complacency. Whether you’re a basic or advanced provider, whether you fly in a helicopter, show up in an intercept vehicle, or ride in an ambulance, you are not immune to this. 

Prehospital providers face several regular challenges: Many work for several different agencies; they log long hours; they consistently face stressful and dangerous situations that may wear on them physically and mentally. This can lead to a loss of motivation to learn anything new, and with this there is a failure to maintain mastery of the craft. Survival mode and going through the motions often become the norm. 

On the flip side, there are new providers out there who need to be mentored by motivated individuals who are not down that black hole already—and we do exist. Medicine is dynamic, and we all need to learn constantly to keep up. Tasking a seasoned provider with teaching the new, young, and enthusiastic individuals entering the field is common; it is an expectation of the job. The seasoned provider must not be the complacent provider. Years of experience do not necessarily equate to expertise. If you don’t take the time to learn the proper information to pass on to your students, then who wins? No one. If that individual is given bad information and produces a poor outcome, upon whom does this reflect? You, the teacher who didn’t learn the material! Relaying the proper information lowers the risk of preventable errors.

I’ve been in many situations where I was asked to teach someone. Since I didn’t want to look dumb, I learned, in depth, the information I was going to pass on. In doing so I realized I was able to retain that information better than if I were just looking at it for my own good. This bolstered my motivation to keep teaching and make sure I had all the correct information. Creating this cycle for myself—learn, retain, teach, retain more—has helped pull me from the grips of complacency in my own practice. 

I wrote a blog about something called the protégé effect, which is what I describe above. Knowledge of a subject is better retained when learned with the intent to teach others. The quote from the Roman philosopher Seneca holds true: “While we teach, we learn.”1  

This effect can change your practice for the better. The more we put ourselves in these types of teaching situations, the smaller the complacency black hole gets. If a situation has a positive outcome because of something newly learned, we all become hungry for more, and motivation thrives and may even be contagious. 

Taking opportunities to teach on a subject can benefit all involved. Educators grow their expertise, and students receive the right information to succeed. EMS providers today have so much opportunity to be involved in education. With the dawn of podcasting, blogs, and the FOAMed movement, we have new outlets to put forth and take in new and exciting content anywhere, at any time. Because of long hours and multiple jobs, this is one way to solve the “I have no time to do extra” conundrum. 

The Internet is everywhere. Embrace your creativity and become the ultimate learner while enriching minds and influencing others in the field. 


1. Paul AM. The Protégé Effect. Time, 2011 Nov 30;

Ami Tomaszewski is a flight clinical coordinator for MidAtlantic MedEvac in Burlington, N.J. 

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