EMS education mirrors early nursing efforts

I have always believed EMS and EMS education parallels the career trajectory of nursing. This is especially true when you look at the infancy of nursing, 1750 to 1893, in what was a subservient apprenticeship with no didactic education. “Most nurses working in the States received on-the-job training in hospital diploma schools. Nursing students initially were unpaid, giving hospitals a source of free labor. This created what many nurse historians and policy analysts see as a system that continues to undervalue nursing’s contribution to acute care.”

We reached a turning point in 1893 when the Columbian Exposition met, and although Ms. Nightingale was unavailable to attend she did have a paper presented at the exposition. In essence, the paper proved that the United States needed a well-educated nursing workforce with standards of practice to improve healthcare.

This is exactly where EMS is now. Young enough to have moved through our growing pains of the late ’60s and early ’70s, but luckily enough to be in an age of extensive medical growth where all levels of providers are looking to enhance the care being provided.

So where do we go from here?

We can choose to keep the status quo or move forward, hopefully at a much greater speed than nurses. We should consider moving away from being governed by the Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. A much more appropriate body is the Department of Health. This gives us the ability to think of ourselves as a hospital service rather a transport service.

EMS is a critical component of the nation’s healthcare system. Indeed, regardless of where they live, work or travel, people across the U.S rely on a sufficient, stable and well-trained workforce of EMS providers for help in everyday emergencies, large-scale incidents and natural disasters alike.”

To get there, EMS education needs to reflect growth and evidence based medicine should be the law of the land. If this proves effective, then let’s adopt it. If not let’s stop teaching the worthless skills of yesterday, just as we have seen with the near extinction of the Long Spine Board. Let’s increase the minimum requirements for every level of provider; give Paramedics an Associate’s degree, a diagnosis’s language, and a licensure, not a certification; take the reins of our chosen career paths and have better continuing education that is challenging and accessible and not an  alphabet soup of certifications.

Yes, these are my musings about the future of EMS education. I know very progressives places exist in this country. I know protocol driven areas exist too. So let’s stop the segregation and become a healthcare group with a real mission, an everyday purpose. A place where we act as a group, not as individuals. A place where we treat our patients with the skill, compassion and talent I know exists. Are you ready to join me?