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Shaping EMS

Although volunteer organizations are often the first to complain about changes in laws, regulations or policies at the state and federal level, they’re often the last to know about them. And although we’re not even directly involved in the law and policy-making processes, we have a responsibility as professionals to be informed and involved in decisions that shape„EMS.

This responsibility is just as important as keeping our skills proficient and goes way beyond exercising our right to vote and electing the ˙rightÓ president, senator or representatives. The EMS Agenda for the Future, National EMS Scope of Practice Model and National EMS Education Standards (NEMSES) are great examples of work being done that deserve your attention. These models are going to define„EMS in the next decade, with volunteer organizations possibly having the most to lose or gain from changes in education, recruitment and level of service.

The EMS Agenda for the Future creates a framework for the revision and implementation of national provider levels throughout the„U.S., along with the process to educate and test individuals for national certification. This agenda, developed cooperatively by NHTSA and the„EMS community, breaks the educational and certification process into five parts:„

1. National„EMS Core Content;

2. National„EMS Scope of Practice Model;

3. National„EMS Education Standard;

4. National„EMS Certification; and

5. National„EMS Education Program Accreditation.

The National EMS Core Content and Scope of Practice Model define the entire range and scope of practice for four provider levels: Emergency Medical Responder, Emergency Medical Technician, Advanced Emergency Medical Technician and Paramedic. This now gives us a reference and detailed explanation of each level of care that doesn’t necessarily have an educational component directly attached. This method will allow providers to be educated in all nationally accredited„EMS education programs that comply with NEMSES.

Different from the current National Standard Curriculum, NEMSES is based on standards and competencies rather than actual course content. This may still sound like ˙government speakÓ to some volunteers, but for organizations, it means the scope of practice for all levels is changing on national and local levels, from first responders or MRT level, to the new EMR. EMT-Intermediates are now gone, replaced by AEMTs.

Although there are significant changes at all four provider levels, volunteers may be most affected at the lower levels. At the EMT level, the scope of practice is increased; therefore, the educational standards will most likely result in a longer initial training period for EMTs. If volunteer organizations were having a difficult time recruiting members with EMT courses at 80-130 hours, what happens when this number increases to 166 hours?

However, volunteer organizations could benefit from standardized certifications that are transferable between states. Without a national standard level of care to train and test providers, the execution of the Agendaƒespecially of the NEMSESƒcould mean having to transition entire services or train members on completely new skills.

The NEMSES national accreditation and certification changes now mean revamping programs across the country and dealing with a new testing process in many rural areas. This means increased costs for testing and accredited programs, which could fall on volunteers or their organizations.

Fortunately, there’s still a chance to get involved. The NEMSES draft documents exist, but the actual transition process and timeline are still in development, and the program is actively soliciting comments atwww.nemses.org on its length and the effect this will have on recruitment.

Volunteer organizations can also benefit from work done by the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) and others to promote the Volunteer Responder Incentive Protection Act, which was passed by both the House and the Senate. H.R. 3648 exempts all tax benefits provided by state and local units of government to volunteer firefighters and„EMS personnel from taxation by the federal government. In addition, the first $360 per year of any other type of benefit that a volunteer receives would be exempted from taxation.

How can you get involved and stay informed about the process? Your best bet is always to be involved in national organizations. You can also join the Advocates for EMS (AEMS), a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting, educating and increasing awareness among decision makers in„Washington on issues affecting„EMS providers.

For more information, theEMS Insider newsletter provides valuable management views of the current trends and issues. The Advocates for EMS has also partnered with„JEMS to provide the first annual EMS Policy Summit at EMS Today in„Baltimore on Thursday, March 27. You’ll have a chance to hear and be heard by the people in the government who are making the policies and laws we live by.

Being a professional volunteer means staying involved in political organizations. Don’t sit around and complain later. Be part of the process.

Jason Zigmont is an EMS instructor, the executive director of the Center for Public Safety Education and the founder of VolunteerFD.org. Contact him at[email protected]