Off the Paper Trail: Automated management of training records helps keep certifications organzied & current - Technology - @ JEMS.com


Off the Paper Trail: Automated management of training records helps keep certifications organzied & current

 

 
 
 

Bob Galvin | From the November 2008 Issue | Tuesday, October 28, 2008


With the need for quality EMS growing as fast as theU.S. population, it_s becoming more urgent forEMS professionals to stay current with mandated training and certifications. But this isn_t easy to accomplish because so much training is tracked manually. The good news is that software is now available to automate training records, including National Registry of EMTs requirements. Agencies that decide to automate are discovering valuable productivity gains, time savings, quicker record access and tighter monitoring of every employee_s training history.

˙Automation of training records is an important part of managing a quality in-house continuing education program,Ó says NREMT Associate Director Gregg S. Margolis. ˙The volume of paperwork and the challenges of trying to manage these in a manual way can be overwhelming, especially for anything but the smallest of departments.Ó

For theEMS profession, it seems automation of training records can_t happen soon enough. An April 2007 report released by the National Association of State EMS Officials states that there were 1,062,000,024 state-licensedEMS professionals on the job in 2007. And Margolis says the profession_s growth in the past 10 years has been nearly 166%. What_s more, the percentage of these providers who are achieving national certification is climbing, and the responsibility of training coordinators is being held to a national standard. Let_s go over some of the tools now available for automating these records and the agencies that have already benefitted from them.

Creating a ÂTemplate_

AsEMS and homeland security coordinator for the Anderson County (S.C.)Emergency Services/Public Safety Division, Scott Stoller knows how valuable automating records management can be. His agency managesAndersonCounty_sEMS system and handles code enforcement. It also oversees a hazmatteam, a WMD team plus a marine and dive rescue crew for boat distress calls and drownings.

To manage the various training activities and requirements for the division_s medical staff and dispatchers, Stoller adopted the Skills Manager records management system from Crown Pointe Technologies Inc. Although the division employs about 120 employees, it manages approximately 250 employees, because it works with all the public safety agencies inAndersonCounty.

Once Stoller began using Skills Manager, the software quickly exposed the areas in whichEMS employees were missing critical training and certifications.

˙The software gives you a template,Ó Stoller says. ˙Once I_ve [provided] the information that_s required (i.e., employee records, certification types/due dates, training course history, employment, continuing education), I can go and see who_s missing what classes. It gives me the ability to catch myself.Ó

For example, emergency medical dispatch is one of the certifications Stoller_sdivision must carefully monitor. ˙A dispatcher must have at least 40 hours over a two-year period in different categories,Ó Stoller says. ˙Skills Manager gives me the ability to pull this up and see where that dispatcher stands.Ó

This capability is a dramatic contrast to the manual record-tracking method Stoller inherited when he joined his employer. ˙It took me a whole day to re-certify two people on paper,Ó recalls Stoller. ˙Now, with Skills Manager, I just pull up an employee_s training record, print it out, staple it to the re-certification form and send it in.Ó

The need for automating the management of training records is underscored by the fact that personnel now haveƒand must maintainƒmultiple certifications. It_s a trend that more records management software companies are addressing.

Built-In Warnings

With all of the certifications today_sEMS providers must maintain, expirations can be extremely difficult to track as well.

˙One thing we_re able to do is automate for the administrator or training officer warning systems for when someone_s certification is coming due or when they_re going to be deficient on [upcoming] certifications,Ó points out Jason Trotter, director of sales for ACS-FIREHOUSE Software.EMS certifications monitored by FIREHOUSE Software include EMT intermediate, paramedic or critical care, as well as CPR certifications.

Typically, coordinators who use software to manage their personnel records have relied on a manual method, such as entering and reviewing data in a Microsoft Access database or an Excel spreadsheet. But say a first responder agency has 100 or more staff members, each one with an average of three certifications to maintain, and each person_s certifications have different expirations. Tracking all of this can become very complicated very quickly.

For organizations like this, one of the biggest benefits of such programs as Skills Manager and FIREHOUSE Software is that warnings about upcoming re-certifications deadlines are built in, reducing liability, as Trotter notes. In FIREHOUSE, these warnings are delivered to training coordinators by e-mail. There are also warning systems within the software than pop up when a user logs in. Skills Manager delivers them either through e-mail or printed letters to staff members.

Emergency Software Products (ESP) offers another records management program to help keep you up to date with certifications. The company provides its software in various modules, one of which focuses on personnel, training and certification. This module containspersonnel profiles, training activities, certifications and rosters, so you_re able to handle all your personnel records in one place.

Specifically, the module tracks: in-station drills, county and state schools, EMS, paramedic and instructor certifications, core credits and continuing education units, grades, missed sessions, medical, respiratory protection and exposures, qualifications and licenses.

Because training records and certifications are recorded with their expiration dates, reports for refresher courses and re-certifications that are due are available to help users schedule recurring training and avoid expired certifications.

Compliance & Reporting

In addition to the required number of re-cert hours, coordinators often track classes mandated by state training standards. In most cases, the standards group establishes a course number for each training class and that number is reported with the names of attendees and details about when and how the class was administered. An automated system can help report appropriate data to state organizations.

One of the most prominent org_anizations creatingEMS education standards is the Continuing Education Coordinating Board for EMS (CECBEMS). The purpose of CECBEMS is to develop consistent criteria for the review and approvalofEMS continuing education activities nationwide. Using data automation software, training coordinators can submit course completion records in three ways: XML upload, manual entry and real-time submission via Web services.

InIowa, where FIREHOUSE Software is based, the state doesn_t ensure EMS personnel have taken mandated classes, but instead conducts random audits ofEMS agencies, according to Sanjay Kalasa, vice-president of the Emergency Services Group at ACS-FIREHOUSE. ˙When an audit occurs, theEMS agency using our software just prints out a report to show all the classes ... their staff has taken,Ó Kalasa says.

Trotter says the most useful aspect of FIREHOUSE Software is the level of integration it provides for staff to keep track of details for training and certifications.

˙For example,Ó says Trotter, ˙I could look at all reports for the last year where we had hazmat calls and then cross-reference that with the training every staff member has had on these calls, and how proficient he or she is in this kind training.Ó

AutomatingEMS records isn_t solely the do_main of commercial manufacturers. The NREMT has announced its own electronic solution. Margolis says training officers and individual EMTs will now be able to manage and track their career development on the NREMT_s Web site.

˙We think this is going to be an important service to theEMS community for not only the electronic submission of national re-certification application, but also for managing and keeping track of their continuing education,Ó he says.

LESS Error, Better Security

Additional reasons for going electronic withEMS records management are tighter security and accessibility of records, as well as error reduction.

˙Errors can lead to people losing their certification,Ó Stoller says.

With data automation software,systemvalidationsƒsuch as required dataentry fields, and colored fields indicating in_valid entries, help ensure accurate doc_umentation. Also, a quality control process can be implemented so there_s an approval process and quality confirmation applied to appropriate records.

By having the Skills Manager program on his division_s network, Stoller says, ˙I can get this information from any computer that_s on our county network. But it_s secure enough so that if you don_t have permission to get in there, you_re not getting in.Ó

Pre-incident Planning

Automated training management not only manages personnel training records but also aids in pre-incident planning. This is the case with the Keizer (Ore.) Fire Department. RodConway, the department_s deputy fire marshal, says his firefighter/paramedics have adapted well to using CAD Zone Inc._s Fire Zone software, which allows users to create accurate and clear pre-incident/post-incident and fire investigation draw_ingsƒright from a laptop or desktop computer.

Once the firefighter/par_amedics have their pre-plan built with Fire Zone, they save it as a PDF and upload it to Firehouse Software_s Mobile Pre-plan Viewer on the fire department_s server.This pre-plan viewer is synchronized on each of the department_s six mobile computers, so it pushes out the updated pre-incident drawings that were created the previous week with such information as roof type, suppression devices in the building, doors,stairways, sprinklersand hydrants. Emergency ve_hicles also appear on the pre-incident plan in three dimensions, making the diagram easy to follow, highly accurate and reliable.

NOT just for large agencies

Although automating personnel records is an obvious choice for largeEMS org_anizations, it can benefit small agencies, like the Dorchester County, Md., 9-1-1 center, which has just 21 staff members.

Kim Vickers, training administrator for the 9-1-1 center, recalls a time in her 21-year career when training wasn_t tracked at all. Consequently, there just wasn_t a lot of trainingƒperiod.

Now most states require 9-1-1 dispatchers to be certified by the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) and the Asso_ciation of Public Safety CommunicationsOfficials (APCO) in order for them to access and disseminate criminal information to law enforcement.

In addition, Vickers notes, most counties (at least inMaryland) require the certification in National Academy of Emergency Dispatch. ˙[Certification by a national training standards organization] just sets a higher standard,Ó Vickers says. ˙And we_re able to hire more trained people; it makes our jobs easier.Ó

Skills Manager is also making Vickers_ job easier. She uses it to track employees_ training records and help them maintain certifications.DorchesterCounty_s 9-1-1 dispatchers must take a re-certification class every two years. To help keep dispatchers on schedule, the county uses the Employees Module. Among its numerous features, the module contains a course catalog to keep track of in-house training.

˙If there_s training that_s state mandated, I can put that into one category. If it_s training that someone will get at a conference, that can go into another category. And we_re able to generate separate reports for these categories,Ó Vickers says.

The ability to pull up expirations for any certifications is a real bonus with using Skills Manager, Vickers adds. ˙What took me probably an hour to do before (using a spreadsheet) is now taking only five or 10 minutes,Ó she says.

Conclusion

The manual approach to recordkeeping can hamper quick record access, lead to missed re-certifications and cause errors in documentation. The automation ofEMS and first responder training records will become more critical as the profession moves toward a national standard. Specialized software enabling private and municipalEMS agencies to track their staffs_ training and certifications is paying high dividends in time savings, record accuracy and information security.

If you_re a training coordinator in a system that doesn_t have an automated system to manage records, now_s the time to consider your options for moving toward electronic data management.JEMS

Bob Galvin is anOregon City, Ore.,-based freelance author who writes about trends, technology and software to help first responders manage personnel training records and pre-incident planning. Contact him atrsgpr@msn.com

Quick Guideto Data Automation Software

Skills Managerby Crown Pointe Technologies, Inc. collects, manages and reports personnel development records. It monitors training and certification in many categories, including the entry-level, in-service, instructor and firearms training categories. Evaluate individuals, instructors and even organizations for compliance with established standards or regulations.www.crownpointetech.com

FIREHOUSESoftwareby ACS encompasses a variety of capabilities, including incident andEMS search and rescue reporting; staff activity and training; scheduling; apparatus, equipment and inventory records management; as well as occupancy pre-plans and inspections and permits. FIREHOUSE Software provides simplified incident reporting, more efficient tracking of staff member certifications, inventory, hydrants and better protection from legal liability.www.firehousesoftware.com

The Fire Zoneby CAD Zone allows you to draw pre-fire plans, training diagrams, post-incident critique diagrams and even courtroom-ready investigation diagrams. Thousands of predrawn symbols (NFPA and others) are included, and a powerful Symbol Manager helps you quickly find the right symbol and place it at the proper rotation and size.www.cadzone.com

Emergency Software Products(ESP) by ENFORSYS can help your organization track data accurately and maintain state standards for recordkeeping and reporting. ESP systems can be custom built to your organization_s specifications, giving you the ability to track your data the way you want. With ESP, you can tailor data collection and presentation in addition to using built-in query and reporting functions.www.emergencysoftware.com

The AIM Systemby RAM Software Systems offers a full suite of software products and services to manage everything from dispatch to electronic patient care reporting (ePCR) to billing, including crew, fleet, subscriptions and business intelligence (advanced reporting). It_s backed by training, support, Web and billing servicesƒall available individually or in combination, PC-installed or Web-based.www.ram-software.com

Ninth Brain Suite (NBS)by Ninth Brain is an online software application that automates health-care businesses. NBS provides online staff training, improves recordkeeping and centralizes communication. With specialized tools to track credentials, education and training, employee health and safety, quality improvement and surveys, NBS gives real-time control over an entire organization.www.ninthbrain.com

EMS Managerby Aladtecis an interactive online scheduling system and employee information database that simplifies and improves the employee scheduling process forEMS and fire departments of all sizes. The Web-based system can be used 24/7 by all your employees from anywhere with an Internet connection. Companies with full-time employees use EMS Manager to control payroll costs and reduce overtime with work limits, administrator approved shift trading, time off requests and rotation scheduler.www.emsmanager.net




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Related Topics: Technology, Operations and Protcols, Training, Jems Features

 

Bob GalvinBob Galvin is an Oregon City, Ore.,-based freelance author who writes about trends, technology and software to help first responders manage personnel training records and pre-incident planning. Contact him at rsgpr@msn.com.

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