Administration and Leadership, Columns

NEMSMA’s EMS Officer Competency and Credentialing Programs

Issue 11 and Volume 42.

The time has come for EMS managers to be certified

Until 2016, the EMS profession (now becoming known as the field of paramedicine) was one of the only segments of the healthcare industry that didn’t provide a comprehensive method of certification for its managers according to a set national standard of knowledge and skill sets.

We had no way of objectively knowing who was qualified to supervise, manage or lead an EMS agency. We didn’t test prospective managers or credential them in any meaningful and equitable way.

Often, the best clinician was promoted within an organization, even though medical practice competence isn’t a valid indicator of managerial capability. We had no other way to judge an individual’s abilities to manage.

The national EMS Agenda for the Future, published in 1996 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), recognized the lack of formal educational curricula focused on EMS management.

In 2008, the National EMS Management Association (NEMSMA) spoke for the industry when it published Emergency Medical Services Management and Leadership Development in America: An agenda for the future.

NEMSMA recognized the absence of industry-wide examination or credentialing mechanisms that validated a comprehensive set of competencies in the theory and practice of our profession’s management.

Officer Competencies

NEMSMA determined that a program was needed to identify and standardize the attributes and skills individuals need in order to be EMS officers, including a process to test and validate an individual’s competence in supervising, managing and leading EMS organizations.

In 2014, NEMSMA published the Seven Pillars of National EMS Officer Competencies. This document was the product of collaboration among a broad representative group of national EMS experts and association members, representing all delivery models and segments of service. Over 10 years, they received extensive input from all participants, which was incorporated into the final product.

Competencies were developed for the entire EMS community, regardless of service model (e.g., volunteer, career or combined staffing), system (e.g., rural or urban) or organization (e.g., private company, government-based or non-profit).

Testing & Credentialing

With the competencies established and published to the industry, NEMSMA then embarked upon developing a way to test individuals and verify their competence.

The well-known company Avesta, which specializes in EMS staff recruitment, assessment and promotional testing, was retained to design and scientifically validate credentialing exams for all three levels of officer.

NEMSMA also established the American College of Paramedic Executives (ACPE), formerly named the EMS Officers’ Credentialing Commission, to act as the official authority responsible for overseeing the competencies, testing and credentialing processes on a national level.

NEMSMA, through the ACPE, has become the only entity to certify all levels of EMS officers through a comprehensive competencies and validation testing process. At the Pinnacle EMS leadership and management conference in July, NEMSMA introduced the first national EMS officers assessment and certification program last year with its inaugural examination for Supervising Officers.

The first dozen individuals in the country successfully completed the application process, submitted required prerequisite documentation regarding eligibility, and passed the validation written test in June of last year. They have now been awarded the NEMSMA Supervising Officer Certification.

The Managing Officer’s credentialing examination was first held at Pinnacle this year and included both a written test segment and oral boards. This test will now be available regularly, along with the Supervisor test, at national, state and regional conferences throughout the country.

Throughout 2017, the association will have additional testing opportunities for EMS supervisors and manager officers, most notably at EMS Today, the Pinnacle EMS leadership conference and EMS World Expo. NEMSMA will be offering testing for executive officers, the next EMS officer level, in 2018.

Preparation Courses

NEMSMA has also created preparation courses for individuals to help them understand the format and style of the examinations, which include a review of the competencies.

These courses are available independent of testing and may be taken any time before a candidate chooses to register for an exam. They’re routinely offered in advance of testing opportunities at the same national and state conferences hosting examinations.