EMS World

AUG 2011

EMS World Magazine is the most authoritative source in the world for clinical and educational material designed to improve the delivery of prehospital emergency medical care.

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BEYOND THE BOOKS | By Mike Smith, BS, MICP Does the Bogeyman Cometh? Mandatory paramedic program accreditation looms ahead AS I’M OUT traveling and teaching, one of the more common topics of conversation is mandatory paramedic program accreditation. Beginning January 2013, the National Registry will no longer test paramedic gradu- ates from non-accredited programs. Speculation as to what this actually means is fuel for the overly active imag- ination. To separate facts from fantasy, I talked to CoAEMSP (Committee on Accreditation of Educational Programs for the Emergency Medical Services Professions) Executive Director George W. Hatch, Jr., EdD, LP, EMT-P, to get the skinny on what is unquestionably one of the most signifi cant policy shifts in the history of the EMS profession. What do you see as the primary benefits of CoAEMSP accreditation? Standardization. The need for all paramedic education programs to be measured using the same “yardstick” is essential to the growth of the profession. Currently, it’s uncertain that paramedic graduates have the same educational experiences as their colleagues nation- ally. The fact is, there is a wide disparity of just how we view a “minimally competent” entry-level paramedic. Another objective in this process is to protect the student. Although we are not advocating that all paramedic educa- tional offerings occur in colleges, it is essential that students understand that accreditation assures their education experience meets rigorous standards, particularly with national acceptance and portability. Describe how the relationship MIKE SMITH is a featured speaker at EMS World Expo 2011, Aug. 29–Sept. 2, at the Las Vegas Convention Center, Las Vegas, NV. For more information, visit EMSWorldExpo.com. between CoAEMSP and any given paramedic program works. The CoAEMSP is the professional body that is responsible for all of the “heavy lifting” with the Commission of Accreditation of Allied Health Educa- tion Programs (CAAHEP) accredi- 18 AUGUST 2011 | EMSWORLD.com tation process. We provide technical assistance to program directors (PDs) and state EMS offi cials, as well as the national EMS community. PDs can expect to submit their program self- studies to the executive offi ce and receive a detailed executive analysis about the submission. Next, a site visit is scheduled and two peers (generally a paramedic educator and physician) will be on hand for two days to verify the submission is correct and take a look at the program with “boots on the ground.” A detailed but, at that point, unoffi cial report is generated on site, which is followed in several weeks by a detailed fi ndings letter. The fi ndings become the emphasis for action by the CoAEMSP board of directors, who act upon a recommendation for accredita- tion action and send it to CAAHEP for fi nal disposition. Why do you think some EMS educators have this “fear factor” with the accreditation process? Most educators are fearful of the unknown and of change. Will my paramedic program measure up? What happens if we don’t meet the standards? Who are these folks and why do we need to do this? All of these questions/feelings are legitimate in that this process is about change, and that in and of itself makes people uncom- fortable. To anyone seeking accredi- tation in the years to come, I would say, your program is not perfect. Mine wasn’t, and neither are the programs that are currently accredited. What we all share is the need to continually strive to improve the education experi- ence for our students. The accreditation process is designed to allow programs to meet the standards as they move forward. It’s a process of continuous quality improvement. Think of it as an opportunity to demonstrate that your program does meet a national peer review standard. If you are waiting to have the perfect self-study before you send it in, it will never get done. Do it as openly and honestly as you can, and expect that you will discover things that you do well along with things that need improvement. Look at it as an oppor- tunity to gather data that shows what you need and quantifi es those needs to the advantage of the program, e.g., new faculty, better equipment, improved classroom space. I’ve heard you use the phrase “ongoing introspection” many times. What does that mean to you and to a paramedic program seeking accreditation? Self-study is about you. Who knows your program better? Your dean? Your president? The fi re chief? You are the person who knows the most about what you do and how you do it. Take the opportunity to fully embrace the process. Accreditation is not a destina- tion—it’s a journey. We all must strive to fi nd what works best in our classrooms to better educate those in our charge. The accreditation process is the next evolution of growing the EMS profes- sion and something we should all be proud of. In our lifetime, accredita- tion of paramedic education programs is perhaps one of the most important opportunities we have to learn from ourselves how to better prepare our future generations of EMS providers. I’d like to thank George for taking the time to answer my questions. I have been involved with the accreditation process for over 20 years, and it has been nothing but a positive experience for my program, my graduates and me. Until next month… Mike Smith, BS, MICP, is program chair for the Emergency Medical Services program at Tacoma Community College in Tacoma, WA, and a member of the EMS World editorial advisory board.

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