Public safety training - what is your motivation to train?

CarolinaFireJournal - By Joe Mancos
By Joe Mancos AAS NREMT-P
01/11/2012 -
Sitting in a training class in Emmitsburg Maryland I overheard a fellow student ask another, “So, why are you here?” The answer he gave did not surprise me but it did make me think. His answer was short, to the point and honest, “Because chief told me to be here.” I asked some one else in the class the same question, and an answer I received was, “I will get a pay raise for completing this class.” We should all ask ourselves the same question when we participate in training, “Why am I here?” image

In this article we are going to explore the different motivations of learners and discuss how knowing where you fit in can make us better students. How can we make the most of our time spent training?

In this discussion we are looking at training classes from the perspective of a student taking classes as either professional development, continuing education or in house fire, rescue or EMS training, but some of the concepts can also be applied to the “degree seeking student” in a curriculum program.

You may or may not have heard of the different types or styles of learners. Experts have broken adult learning styles into visual, auditory and kinesthetic learning. This is important for an instructor to understand so he or she may develop a lesson plan and teaching style so that it caters to all types of learners. This in turn makes the instructor and the presentation more effective over a wider range of students.

In Public Safety Training there are also different types of students. What is the student’s motive for being in class? Will the student’s motive directly effect how well they will retain the knowledge presented in the class or training session? There are several different kinds of students that you will sit next to in class and we can all remember seeing them, or can recognize a little of ourselves in the different examples.

The Newbie

This is often a great student to be near in class. This person is not necessarily young but is new to the area of expertise the class is dealing with. A seasoned firefighter who is taking his or her first EMT course is a good example. This student is open to what is being presented in the class, provided that they are not being forced into taking the class (that will be covered later).

The newbie has possibly not been corrupted with bad habits and will depend on training and not “this is the way we do it in real life” as much. Most newbies are eager to learn the skills and techniques involved in the training session.

If you are the newbie in any area of emergency services, keep an open mind and remember to focus on what is important, learning the fundamentals. Train and drill on the fundamentals until you do them right, every time. A great deal of what you are taught as a newbie are ways to stay safe on the job, so it is imperative that you pay attention. One more thing to remember is the education process is never ending, so hold on, this business moves fast. Initial certification training is not about the piece of paper you will get at the end, it’s about the things you learn during the class.

Chief Told Me To

Next in the line up is the “Because I have to be here” guy. This guy is only here because the Chief or TO has made this class or training session mandatory for him or her. They will let you know in words or actions that they are only here for that reason. This student may be hard to handle at first. They can be seen with crossed arms and closed mind at first. Thankfully some of these folks will actually get something out of the class if the instructor will get them involved in the discussion and practical skill, but only after they have expressed wanting to be somewhere else.

If you fit into this category then it is important to remember that you are there for a reason, some one in your organization thinks it is important that you learn what is being presented. If you have had the class before and this is review, then make the most of it because the best in the business get to be the best by drilling over and over on the fundamentals as well as advanced techniques. There are folks out there that think training or refreshing on the fundamentals is “beneath them” or they don’t need anymore training, this type of person is dangerous.

I Need This Class to Progress

There are two subcategories in this kind of student. The first subcategory is the person who wants to get ahead is there to further their career, by gaining knowledge that will make them better at what they do. This person may not truly be interested in actually being able to perform the tactics or skills being presented in the class. However, in contrast to the student described below, they know to move forward in the rank progression and to be able to excel at the job they aspire to they need to have a good understanding of the information being presented.

The other subcategory is the person who is there to get the certificate that will be given at the end of the training to further his or her career. This person is not really interested in learning the skill, tactic, or much of anything new for that matter but is here because if they want to make rank, they need that piece of paper. This person is truly only interested in getting a check box filled on a check off sheet and is not interested in retaining any knowledge that could be obtained in a particular class.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to “pad your resume” but keep where you and the information being presented fit into the “big picture” of emergency services as a whole in proper perspective.

I’m Here for the Party

Some classes are held at seminars or in training locations away from where the student lives and works. This can be seen as a break away from the rigors of the job and the daily pressures of work and family life. This student may be seen late night after class in the local “watering hole” until the wee hours of the morning.

I see nothing wrong with having a good time and “networking” while out of town for training, but remember you are representing your department and your profession. An important point is that many of the classes we take involve learning tactics or skills that directly affect the safety of our crews or patient care on the scene. Your ability to stay awake during class to be able to absorb the information may affect your ability during an emergency.

A word of caution to the party student, if you are participating in training involving hands on training (live fire, high angle rescue operations and vehicle extrication come to mind) excessive use of alcohol is not only a bad idea, but also putting you and your fellow students and instructors in danger. Your employer would not be happy if you showed up for shift still drunk or extremely hung over from the night before would they?

The best advice I have ever heard from a much respected instructor on a national level was, “I encourage you to take full advantage of the networking opportunities that being in class has to offer, but if you decide to indulge on a social basis after class in the pub, moderation is always smart.”

I’m a Volunteer; This Stuff is Just for the Paid Guys

As an instructor I see no difference between paid and volunteer except the fact that the volunteer must be more committed to training. Volunteers and paid alike are exposed to the same risk, and the patients that a volunteer treats are no less important than the patients that a paid EMT, medic or firefighter treats.

Got the T-Shirt

OK, I admit I couldn’t think of any other way to put this gently but, “the ones who have been doing this a long time” or, “been there, done that, got the T-Shirt.”I have been called a “dinosaur of EMS,”“the old man,” and a few other things referring to the fact that I have been in fire, rescue and EMS for over 20 years. I represent this group of students. You will see them in the classroom and on the training ground as students and some as instructors, and they will also fall within two groups.

First are the ones who are also mentioned above in the fact they have “been there and done that” and minds are not open to new ideas or ways of doing things. If the class is a total review without any new information they are the ones who call the training officer on the phone and ask, “Do I REALLY need to go to that class, I have had it a hundred times?”

There is not much an instructor can do with this student except try to keep him or her involved and a part of the discussion without turning the class over to them. They are going to meet the required hours and not much else.

The second group includes the folks who understand that to stay in the business, you have to take part in what has come to be known as Life Long Learning. The paramedics and firefighters are being taught much more in class today than I was taught just a short 20 years ago. This does not mean I had bad instructors, in fact I think I had some of the best in North Carolina, but the industry has changed so much that the amount of information that has been added to the classes is staggering if you look at it as a whole. As the professions grow, they will continue to change and these are changes that will be needed to make advances in prehospital care and keep our crews safe on the fire/rescue scene.

This group of students is diligent in keeping up with the changes in the profession and is attending classes often, some paying out of their own pocket due to department budget cutbacks. You can also find these folks often reading trade related journals and job relevant studies to keep abreast of any changes that may be coming about, or just to brush up on seldom used, high risk skills that have been proven to get us into trouble.

This is in no way a comprehensive list of the types of students encountered in the classroom. No matter what type of student you are there are important points for all to remember, because at some point in your career you will fall into one or all of the categories mentioned in this article.

You will NEVER know enough. When you feel like you know enough, you have become dangerous.

You can learn something useful at most any class if you take the trouble to pay attention.

It is our responsibility as professionals to maintain and hone our knowledge and skills, not the agency we work or volunteer for.

Almost all of the time, we are in class with people very much like ourselves with similar interests, so enjoy the brotherhood and fellowship of the group you are with.

To keep our priorities in line we should also remember that the ultimate reason we are training is to make us better at what we do, to keep ourselves and our brothers and sisters safe, and to better serve our customers, the citizens that depend on us.

Joe Mancos has served over 20 years in Emergency Services. He is the Assistant EMS Chief and Quality /Education Coordinator for Moore County Public Safety in NC. He is a member of the Moore Co. Special Operations Team. A long time volunteer, he serves as a captain with the Pinebluff Fire Department. Mancos is an EMS, Fire and Rescue instructor. He also serves on the Board of Directors for the NC Assoc. of Rescue and EMS. Along with Tommy McNeill, he is a cofounder of M&M Fire and Rescue Training Services. He can be reached at [email protected].
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