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NREMT Sets Deadline for Paramedic Education Programs

The National Registry of EMTs board of directors voted Nov. 13 to require paramedic candidates who apply for NREMT certification after Dec. 31, 2012, to be graduates of a nationally accredited paramedic training program.

˙Why require this?Ó NREMT Executive Director Bill Brown said. ˙We_ve done a study and measured the outcomes of graduates from accredited and non-accredited programs and found those from an accredited program are more likely to pass the registry, so there is consensus and science behind this requirement.Ó

Consensus comes in the form of two of the five components of the National EMS Education Agenda for the Future. The fourth component is National EMS Program Accreditation, and the fifth component is National EMS Certification (of EMS personnel).

Although the education agenda doesn_t specify which entities should undertake the final two components, the NREMT has positioned itself to be the national certification agency, and at this point, only one national bodyƒthe Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programsƒaccredits paramedic education programs. CAAHEP accomplishes this with the help of its subsidiary the Committee on Accredi_tation of Educational Programs for the EMS Professions.

According to CoAEMSP Executive Director George Hatch, EdD, LP, EMT-P, CAAHEP has accredited some 250 paramedic training programs at the recommendation of CoAEMSP. ˙No one knows just how many paramedic education programs there are, but we expect to accredit another 250 in the next five years,Ó he said.

A dozen national organizations support CoAEMSP, including most national EMS organizations and a number of physician groups, each of which has at least one seat on the CoAEMSP board (which is chaired by Colorado EMS Director Randy Kuykendall).

Programs seeking accreditation go through a rigorous process that involves a stringent self-evaluation based on CoAEMSP standards and guidelines and a two-day site visit by two reviewers (usually a paramedic educator and a physician) who conduct numerous interviews and verify every aspect of the application and self-evaluation.

In October, Kuykendall reported to the National Association of State EMS Officials that the CoAEMSP board was proposing changing its regulations to allow two paramedic educators to conduct site visits, due to a shortage of physician reviewers. But the NASEMSO medical directors council objected strenuously to the idea, and members at the meeting committed to finding more physicians to act as CoAEMSP reviewers.

˙We are always looking for more site reviewers,Ó Hatch said.

Accreditation is not inexpensive. According to Hatch, it costs most programs $3,000Ï$5,000 including fees and reviewer travel expenses for initial accreditation. CoAEMSP also requires accredited programs to resubmit a self-study and undergo another site visit every five years to remain accredited.

˙Colleges, universities and hospitals are used to such accreditation processes,Ó Hatch said. But some ambulance services and fire departments that have their own paramedic training programs may find the process and cost a bit daunting.

˙We think there will be some initial concerns voiced by educational programs,Ó Brown said. ˙But accreditation is also designed to protect the student because every student wants a credible education.

˙We haven_t found any other allied health profession that allows registration without graduation from an accredited program,Ó he noted.

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