What we've learned about EMS education & educators
The National Association of EMS Educators (NAEMSE) and the DOT/NHTSA/EMS joined together in 2002 to conduct The State of EMS Education Research Project (SEERP) in support of "The EMS Education Agenda for the Future: A Systems Approach" (NHTSA, 2000).
This study reported and analyzed the characteristics, background and work setting of EMS educators in current EMS education systems in the United States. The study data was gathered via a questionnaire sent to a randomly selected national sample of EMS educators, which resulted in a description of education preparation, experience, teaching environment, level of comfort with teaching activities, availability and frequency of use of standard teaching resources, and satisfaction levels with EMS education experience.
A total of 1,690 EMS instructors participated in the study. Only those respondents who teach either the EMT-basic and/or the EMT-paramedic curricula were included.
Satisfaction & longevity: More than 97% of respondents indicated that they were personally "satisfied" or "very satisfied" with their EMS teaching experience. The major reason respondents remain educators was enjoyment of teaching (79.5%). In addition, 73% indicated that they would continue to teach at least six years or more. More than 50% indicated that they began teaching in EMS to improve the level of instruction in their area.
Gender & nationality: Of the respondents, 71.8% were male and 93.8% were white (not of Hispanic origin). The largest minority group was Hispanic, at 1.9%.
Salary: Most EMS educators work part time and often without pay. More than 50% of the respondents reported earning $1 to $9,999 annually from EMS education.
Location & resources: Of the respondents, 26% indicated that they taught at a community college; less than 5% taught at a four-year college or university. Forty-five percent indicated they taught in some type of service-oriented setting (e.g., a fire station, fire/EMS academy or for an EMS service). Less than half reported having access to such resources as secretaries, legal consultants, librarians or remedial instructors for students who experience difficulties in the classroom.
Requirements: Eighty-two percent indicated that a specialty instructor certificate was needed in order to be hired as an instructor; 78% indicated that they were required to have an EMS instructor certificate before teaching an EMS class. Three-fourths of respondents also reported they needed some amount of clinical experience.
An associate's degree or higher had been obtained by 54%, but only 20% of all respondents indicated that they needed a college degree in order to teach. In contrast, 95% said they were required to maintain a certificate or license as an EMS provider.
Teaching role: Nearly half reported that their primary audience was EMT-basic students. When asked about their primary role in EMS education, 24% indicated they were a course coordinator. Nineteen percent considered their primary role as a lecturer, whereas 16% stated they were primarily a skills instructor. Respondents indicated that they did not perform any one particular role exclusively. Nearly half reported using the DOT national standard curriculum (NSC) as the source of their lesson plans and content.
Teaching skills: Most respondents reported they were "very comfortable" with performing each of the educational task items listed, such as classroom management, delivering lectures, and developing simulations and scenarios. However, just under half of the respondents reported that they were only "somewhat comfortable" with such tasks as using state and/or national tests to make course changes (48%) or writing objectives for a specific lesson (47%).
Teaching resources: Respondents reported access to and use of a variety of educational tools but reported they don't have access to several basic items, such as dial-up or high-speed Internet connection in the classroom/laboratory (66% and 56%, respectively) or a mock ambulance environment (42%).
The time for a major initiative to strengthen the resources, capabilities and infrastructure for EMS education is now. We must integrate resources, develop support systems, coordinate continuing education requirements, and bolster alliances with professional accreditation services to improve the working conditions of our educators and the clinical performance of our students.
Judith A. Ruple, PhD, is a professor in the Department of Health Professions at the College of Health and Human Services, The University of Toledo, Ohio. Dr. Ruple is co-chair of the ECC Education Subcommittee for the American Heart Association and a past president of the National Association of EMS Educators (NAEMSE). Visit the NAEMSE Web site at„www.naemse.org.