EMS Continuing Education: Pain or Pleasure

CarolinaFireJournal - By David Hesselmeyer
By David Hesselmeyer
10/26/2015 -

About a month ago I was heading in to EMS Base where I was going to spend the day participating as a student in our monthly continuing education. Entering the classroom I saw Richard Stump setting up to teach. Richard is a longtime friend and mentor of mine. I was excited for sure. The topic for the day: cardiology.


The more he talked the more I tried to absorb like a sponge. He spoke as if he were a veteran cardiologist. To be honest I hope that I retained even a fraction of the information he provided. Everything from the presentation style to the in depth discussion he gave was invaluable.

As Richard continued speaking it made me think about our continuing education system — and of course cardiology.

I have been in EMS for about 17 years now. I have taken many continuing education courses and have taught several as well. How many times did I attend these courses with the attitude that it was a waste of my time? How many times have I tried to be the best instructor I could be so the students could learn even more from me? Let’s be honest. I probably could say many to the first question and few to the latter.

I think it is time for all of us to begin looking at this continuing education system differently. For one, most if not all medical professionals have to take continuing education. So obviously there is some benefit if the medical profession as a whole does this.

Due to Richard’s intense and informational lesson that day I committed myself to being a better instructor. I began looking for ways to spice up my lectures and add more hands-on components, dimension and/or experience.

For example, recently I taught a class on pediatric emergencies. What better way to teach pediatrics than to use a live patient who fits this description. My daughter Reagan, who is six years old, and I talked about the idea of using her in this training. Being outgoing she immediately fell in love with the idea. That night in between the lecture of new and recurrent information the students were able to spend time talking to Reagan as a live patient, take her vitals, splint her arms and legs, and even put her into cervical spine immobilization. Many of the students came to me explaining how much they enjoyed this change in the training.

I have also committed to spending more time reviewing various publications and references to include more information that may aid the students I teach. There are many journals, such as the Emergency Medicine Journal, magazines, such as EMS World and JEMS, and other medical references that at least occasionally include emergency medicine topics. Don’t our students deserve a lecture that includes the newest and most up- to-date information? I think so too.

All of these changes cannot be in the hands of the instructors solely. Remember I said I thought that these classes were often a waste of my time? As students in this field we must remember that it is our duty to stay up-to-date and aware of the newest information so we can properly treat our patients. We need to come in to these trainings with open minds and a willingness to learn. Be willing to practice skills even if they are in front of others. I would rather make mistakes in front of coworkers while in practice than during a real world call. Let those who want to be negative by laughing have their fun. Just be willing to try and to learn.

We need all EMS professionals to work towards being better students and for the instructors to work to be better at their role. If either side falters then success will not be evident. Our patients and their families deserve our best. Many times I hear EMS workers talk about not being considered part of the medical profession or being left out for this reason or that. Maybe making this change will be the first step in achieving a more level playing field with some of our counterparts. Be the change and be the professional. It is up to you to make the difference.

David Hesselmeyer, M.P.A., has been in emergency services for 16 years. Currently he is a firefighter, rescue technician, paramedic, and North Carolina Executive Emergency Manager. Hesselmeyer is the owner and primary consultant with On Target Preparedness (OTP) which contracts with emergency services agencies and non profits to assist in risk assessments, plan writing, plan revision, exercise development, etc. He currently volunteers with Buies Creek Fire Rescue and works part time with Harnett County EMS. He can be contacted at [email protected] or visit his website at www.ontargetprep.com.
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