National Registry Celebrates 40 Years

By Mannie Garza, founding editor, EMS Insider

Nearly 200 people–EMS educators and training coordinators, state and federal officials, medical directors, fire chiefs, ambulance-service executives, military officers, current and former NREMT employees–converged in June on Columbus, Ohio.


They arrived from as far away as Alaska, Oregon, California and Vermont to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the National Registry of EMTs.


So what’s the big deal with “The Registry?”


On the afternoon before the celebration, a panel of past and present NREMT board members tried to answer that question in the discussion, “The Influence of National EMS Certification on the Safety of the American Public.”


That evening, another panel of Registry notables talked about the Registry’s past, present and future.


The panel consisted of NREMT Founding Executive Director Rocco Morando; current Executive Director William “Bill” Brown; Board Chair Jimm Murray; former board chairs National Highway Traffic Safety Administration EMS Chief Drew Dawson; Roger White, MD, a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic, who was a board member for 35 years; and New Orleans trauma surgeon Norm McSwain, MD; Terry Shorr, the nation’s first NREMT (who later worked for the Registry 1993—2003 and was West Virginia’s EMS training coordinator); and Jeffrey Clark, the first NREMT-P in the U.S.


Morando, who also helped found the National Association of EMTs and the National Council of State EMS Training Coordinators, was with the National Science Foundation in the 1960s and sat on the committee that came up with the term “emergency medical technician.”


Morando theorizes that when the U.S. Department of Transportation began designing the first EMT curricula in 1968, those classes would have taught EMTs to deal with only highway emergencies–if he hadn’t objected.


“You can tell I was a pioneer by all the arrows in my ass–and you’d be surprised where some of them came from,” he said.


The Registry resides in Columbus because that’s where Morando lived and where he and his wife started the Registry, literally on their dining room table using $52,000 in seed money.


The Morandos worked alone, but the Registry now has 31 full-time employees and also benefits from the contributions (test questions, for example) of EMS community members.


“If the community had to pay for all the volunteer effort that goes into the Registry “¦ well, it could never afford it,” Dawson said.


McSwain joined the NREMT board in 1988, during the last year of Morando’s 18-year tenure as executive director and served on the board for more than 10 years. “The most important thing that happened to the National Registry while I was there was Bill Brown,” he said.


Brown, who has served as executive director since 1989, enumerated some NREMT milestones, including the first NREMT board meeting in June 1970; the first EMT exam (which tested 1,500 candidates) in 1971; the first paramedic exam in 1978; the opening of the Rocco V. Morando Building, which now houses the Registry, in 1980; the first EMT-intermediate exam in 1982; the decision by the U.S. military in 1986 to require all of its medics to become nationally registered; and the 1998 launch of an ambitious NREMT research project, which uses the Registry’s massive database to answer questions critical to the development of EMS.


In 2002, NREMT raised its fees by $5–its first-ever fee increase–and in 2007, exam-takers put down their pencils, moving to the Registry’s computer assisted testing.


By 2005, 46 states used the Registry, and some 600 people each day now take an NREMT exam. “We have certified 1,441,000 EMTs and paramedics over the past 40 years,” Brown reported.


As for the future, Dawson said: “We in EMS will be required to be increasingly competent and accountable, and NREMT is uniquely situated to enable that.”


“We all worked together through hard times and good times and that work has paid off,” Morando said.

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