As an EMS educator, what are your responsibilities? If you were to make a list, you likely would include such things as preparing lesson plans, maintaining classrooms and teaching resources, counseling students, writing and grading quizzes and tests, arranging practical exercises and, of course, actual teaching. However, I'm sure that many of you didn't include political advocacy on your list.
Political advocacy? I know, you already don't have enough time to do your job, let alone engage in politics. But the reality is that politics relates to almost everything we do as educators.
Remember that phone call from a parent a few weeks back asking about how a student was doing in class? How did you respond? “Sorry, but FERPA won't let me discuss student progress with you without a release.” Then there's the special desk you ordered for your EMT student who uses a wheelchair. What about the rally last year at the state capitol for changes to community college faculty pension plans?
And have you been following the various activities related to developing the new educational standards that will replace the traditional national standard curriculum as outlined in the EMS Education Agenda for the Future? IS-700 training, national credentialing for first responders, Health and Human Services funding for bioterrorism response, avian flu planning—the list is almost endless.
So you see, politics is a fact of our everyday professional lives as EMS educators. Complain as much as you like about politicians and all “those people in Washington,” but you won't change anything unless you get involved.
If you want to get involved at the local level, and, as former speaker of the house Tip O'Neill said, “All politics is local," contact your college or institution's legislative liaison to see how you can help. Your state EMS instructors' organization or state provider association also probably has a legislative or advocacy committee. If you're really serious about being an advocate for EMS education, join the National Association of EMS Educators (NAEMSE) Legislative Committee.
Of course, educators are busy people and may not have time to be directly involved in political advocacy, but that doesn't mean you can't be a supporter of EMS advocacy. One of the best ways to show your support for EMS education is to support NAEMSE's involvement with Advocates for EMS, a national group consisting of providers, medical directors, state officials and educators.
Advocates for EMS has addressed many issues on your behalf, including sending letters to the House and Senate transportation appropriations subcommittees that urges Senate-passed funding and report language for NEMSIS; sending a letter to Senator Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and Congressman Tom Reynolds (R-N.Y.) in support of efforts to increase Medicare reimbursement for ambulance service providers; and signing onto a letter to the Homeland Security Appropriations Conferees asking for the inclusion of the EMS House report language in the final version of the FY07 bill. More initiatives are described at www.advocatesforems.org. If these spark your interest, consider joining Advocates.
You do many things as an educator, and, because of your efforts, you directly contribute to the advancement of prehospital medicine as a profession and to the quality of EMS provided across America. But such progress and quality can be maintained only with strong political backing at the local, state and federal levels.