Continuing Education Improves Performance

Anyone who handles emergency medical staffing has had to face the possible loss of an EMT or paramedic who has failed to complete the required continuing education (CE) requirements. 

Like many of you, we took steps in our service to provide and track CE within the department to ensure all of our people were up to date. There are a variety of ways to do this.

One option is to do it yourself. You can design CE classes for your personnel with the approval of the agency that awards CE for your service. As an example, our EMS system provided a certain amount of mandatory CE, which we arranged to host at our department. For the rest of the hours, we developed classes to run monthly.

We submitted the outlines and materials to the EMS system for approval and, once approved, we ensured that all of our personnel completed all of the sections every year.

One benefit of the do-it-yourself plan is that you can design the CE to respond to the information coming out of your quality assurance/quality improvement program. If your program indicates 
you are missing the mark on a particular skill or compliance with a protocol, you can run a class to mitigate the situation, and subsequent months should show improvement. This gives your service supporting evidence to demonstrate the level of your department’s performance.

Another option for CE is going the commercial route. There are lots of companies, big and small, that for a fee will provide you with classes in a variety of ways, from DVDs to cable or the Internet. Plug the letters “EMS CE” into your search engine, and you will find many choices.

Here are some:
   •, the online version of the Journal of Emergency Services. JEMSprepare provides CEs via the Internet. After selecting a course and taking a quiz, the program will print out a CE certificate for you. All courses are approved by the Continuing Education Coordinating Board for Emergency Medical Services (CECBEMS), which is recognized by the national registry and state EMS authorities. As for pricing, you can pay $10 for each 1.5 CE or get a year’s worth for $75. Organizational rates are provided for departments that want to use the system.
   •  HealthStream offers online CE content. A two-year subscription goes for $59 per student per year or you can pay $69 for a one-year subscription for up to 24 CEs. A one-year subscription for 12 CEs goes for $39 per student, and you can get 5 CEs for $29.
   •  24-7 is a product of JSL Communications LLC, a company founded by the folks who started Emergency Medical Update, which was folded into Pulse and ultimately Fire & Emergency Training Network (FETN). 24-7 produces monthly classes on DVD, part of a three-year curriculum following Department of Transportation (DOT) and National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) requirements. The program costs $859 per year, and the value increases with the number of people you train. Online support is provided for instructors and students.
   •  Pulse-Emergency Medical Update. FETN has been its home for a decade or so now. Whether you use the satellite broadcast capability, cable links, online or DVD format, it provides a wide array of CE offerings.

If you’re already using FETN, you are probably familiar with its ability to keep your CE records. It has a system to track department training for fire, as well as the medical piece.

If you’ve ever worked on an application to improve your community’s fire rating, you know the importance of being able to document training hours. Several of the companies offering CE, including Pulse and 24-7, offer the means to track all of your training, and they provide interactive faculty support.

In addition to those CE options, there are university and community college offerings. Take a stroll around the Web and look for them at the conferences you attend. What you need to be sure to check is the acceptability of the training for your region.

Most states and the national registry accept CECBEMS accreditation, and all of the companies mentioned here are accredited by CECBEMS. If you’re looking at other companies, make sure they can provide documentation of acceptance by the folks that grant your licenses.

Editor’s Note: Will Chapleau, who has more than 30 years of EMS experience, is the Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS) program manager for the American College of Surgeons. He is the former chief of the Chicago Heights (Ill.) Fire Department, has served since 1996 as the chairperson for the Prehospital Trauma Life Support (PHTLS) program of the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians and has been a member of its international faculty since 1984. He is a board member of the National Association of EMS Educators.

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