Friday, January 20, 2012

EMS Education practices - some good ideas for K12

In my other life, I am a Paramedic and EMS-Instructor. I've been in EMS since 1988 in college and have been instructing at different levels since 1990. I love it (although I've had two knee surgeries and I am currently not able to work on the road due to a back injury).

I am one of the senior instructors at the local EMS training program, teaching EMT, Advanced EMT and Paramedic programs. I also taught an EMT class at my school for many years. The Paramedic program is my main class that I teach now and we do some great things that can be applied to K12 education as well.

As background, the Paramedic program is about 14 months long, meeting 2 nights a week for 4 hours each night, plus multiple weekend classes and hundreds of hours of clinical time. Paramedics can intubate, defibrillate, pace, administer over 30 medications, start IV's, insert needles into a patient's bone, decompress a pneumothorax, insert a breathing device into a patient's neck through the skin, assess a patient and perform dozens of medical and trauma skills.

1. Lecture - yes, we lecture. We use the lectures to get information to the students so that they have a base of information to work with. We assign reading on the topic ahead of time and hit the main points in class. The lectures are interactive though, with demonstrations, discussions, and lots of questions to the students.

2. Practicals - these are similar to labs in science. Practicals are over 60% of the course. We have teaching practicals where we demonstrate and teach skills. We also do scenarios where the students have to apply what they have learned to work through a scenario and successfully treat a patient verbally,. There are the hands on practicals where they have to work through a scenario and do certain skills. We have manikins and life "victims" along with all of the equipment that they would use on an ambulance. We also set up very realistic scenarios outside, in the dark, in an actual vehicle, and so forth. This is where they truly learn and demonstrate their understanding of the concepts.

3. Simulations and Virtual environments - there are some virtual/online quizzes and scenarios that are available, as well as video scenarios that we will use in class. We also use video and audio clips to show them things they wouldn't be able to experience otherwise, such as lung sounds of a patient with respiratory problems, and young children in critical condition. We also use EKG simulators, IV arms, and manikins to simulate real situations. There are some very nice simulator manikins out there. We do not have the $50,000 one my colleague Richard Byrne saw recently, or the $100,000 one I used when taking a Terrorism and Special Operations EMS course with the Feds, but we have some good ones. The $100k one had two computers and a tank of compressed O2 running it and could sweat, cry, recreate lung sounds and change status based on treatment given.

4. Clinical Time - this is where the students do observations on an ambulance and in different departments in the hospital. They then start doing patient treatment and procedures under the watchful eye of their preceptors during their clinical time. They are applying what they have learned to real patients, in real situations. Talk about learning in context.

5. Textbooks - we use textbooks. The paramedic course textbook comes in 5 volumes, each of which is big, plus there are textbooks for CPR, Cardiology, Anatomy, ACLS and PALS. They are adjuncts to what they learn in class. They also receive tons of information in class and from a variety of sources, including web sites. The publishers of the textbooks also have some good online material.

6. Assessments - Students are assessed through practicals, written tests and quizzes, research projects, clinical reports. In order to successfully complete the course, they must have a minimum overall average as well as pass the final written and practical exams (10 stations). To get licensed, they must pass the National Registry written and practical exams. High stakes to be sure, but not just written. The practicals test their ability to apply their knowledge.

I think K12 education needs more hands-on, context based, application learning, such as with Project Based Learning. Clinicals could be replaced by more field trips, internships, shadowing professionals, and the like. Assessments should always be more than just a written test. And textbooks are one tool for learning, not the curriculum or main learning tool.

I also teach EMS Instructor courses, teaching EMTs and Paramedics to become instructors and educators. I stress all of the things that are important in education and all of the things that are important in EMS.

See Also:

Bridgeport Hospital EMS Programs

National Association of EMS Educators



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