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What EMS Educators Want You to Know

Monday, March 26, 2018 12:25 PM | PAAW Administrator (Administrator)

By Samantha Hilker

I’m not the smartest person in the room, and that is what I love most about my job. 

Being an EMS educator is a tough job; it takes a special person to pour their heart into educating others.  It takes someone who can stand behind their team to celebrate their accomplishments and also support them through mistakes.  A person who will pick up the phone at 3 a.m. to help a crew through a tough call, discuss a protocol, or work through the transport decision trees with dispatch without a second thought.  Someone who is OK with not being the smartest person in the room because they live in constant learning and embrace new challenges. 

I had the good fortune of speaking with several EMS educators about what they really want their clinical team(s) to know.  Here are the highlights:

Mistakes are not the end of the world.

Let’s be real, everyone makes mistakes. EVERYONE. The important thing is that you (1) realize the mistake and take steps to correct or communicate it, (2) learn from your mistake and (3) help others learn from you. Making a mistake once is part of the learning process – making the same mistake twice is foolish.

I am here for you.

Call me. Anytime. I’d honestly rather have you ask a question if you’re unsure of something – or call me right away to discuss a concern than receive a complaint or find something concerning on QA reports a few days or weeks later. A lot of times, the mistakes people think they made really aren’t that big of a deal – especially if we know about them and understand the why right away.

I don’t like doing QA any more than you like me calling you about QA concerns.

While looking at high-level outcome data and trends is interesting, I don’t like having to call you about protocol or documentation compliance issues. QA is necessary – it lets us know how we’re doing, how I’m doing as an educator…but please know that I do not spend time pouring over reports just looking for reasons to call you. Trust that I am looking for every reason not to call you before that phone rings.

It’s not always as exciting as I’d like it to be.

I know the education isn’t always the most exciting and sometimes we repeat things – but sometimes we need to repeat things for the benefit of the whole team. I would love to do exciting, cutting edge, new education all the time…but there is also value in getting back to the basics.

Practice how you play.

It is so important to train how you work…meaning realistic scenarios via simulation or low-fidelity equipment, partner configuration, uniforms and using the tools you use in real life. A lot of what we do in high-stress, time-sensitive situations is done without implicit thought – muscle memory – the more realistic our training the more efficiently we’re able to react in a real situation.

As I write this article, I am about midway through a virtual instructor-led paramedic refresher and never have I been more thankful for the EMS educators that helped shape me through the years, and the services who supported the role of an internal educator.  When education is viewed as a burden or requirement you meet just to maintain your license, it is easy to dismiss the value of a passionate educator providing face-to-face or hands-on transfer of knowledge.  I encourage you to take full advantage of the educators in your life, both formal and informal, especially if you are fortunate enough to work for a service willing to support that role internally. 

A special thank you to the following EMS educators who took time out of their day to contribute to this article:

  • Thomas Carpenter, EMS Educator with Gundersen Health
  • Rick Barton, EMS Educator with Gundersen Health
  • Nick Romenesko, Clinical and Quality Manager with Gold Cross Ambulance Service, Inc.
  • Robert Whitton, Education and Quality Assurance Coordinator with Paratech Ambulance
  • Michael Barrow, Founder/Co-Author CPR Podcast, and Educator with Centura Hospitals 



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