When one works for an ambulance service or fire department, it is generally easy to maintain your certification as agencies frequently offer enough training in-house that one does not have to seek out their own learning opportunities. It becomes more difficult to offer enough in-house training when everyone is in a different area. At any given time, several folks may be at home. They are the easy ones to reach. But, there are generally folks out in the remote areas, with limited access to continuing education.
All of the Paramedics with SALA are Nationally Registered. This means that they all meet the requirements of a very strict certification process. In some cases, the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) is more stringent than many states. NREMT requires 72 hours of specific training every two years. To make it a bit more difficult, only 22 of the required 72 hours can be completed through non-instructor contact (also known as distributive education). That means that some education can be completed using an online presentation or video with a quiz or magazine article with a quiz. The rest has to be through instructor contact. In the past, this meant that the student had to be present in the classroom for the entire educational session.
How is the classroom requirement overcome when people are working in disparate locations? One way is through web-based, instructor led, live presentations with immediate access to the instructor to have questions addressed quickly. This has been very beneficial for everyone… as long as the internet is fast enough to allow for video and audio to run without interruption. More often than not, we have little trouble making sure the Paramedics out in the field can access these educational opportunities. During those rare times when internet bandwidth is very difficult to come by, the presentation will be sent to the clinic and the Paramedic will be on the phone call while flipping the presentation to the next slide… think back to elementary school filmstrips. It seems archaic, but it works.
Many of us look for free educational opportunities that occur when we are at home and meet our schedule. There are lots of these that come up. Where I live, one can generally find 2-4 hours of free education per month within a very short drive. These are often in the form of lectures on an issue that has been seen in the local area, but they are also great venues for reviewing case studies of patients recently treated.
Another option is educational opportunities that must be paid for. These include classes that typically run from 2 days up to 4-5 weeks (2-3 days per week). Conferences are one of the most popular of these as they generally offer a wide variety of topics and afford the attendees the opportunity to spend time with colleagues and network. Courses in the two day range tend to be topic specific and focus on that one area for 12-16 hours. For example, Prehospital Trauma Life Support is a 2-day course that focuses solely on trauma. This is a great way to meet the NREMT trauma requirements and to refresh on assessments and patient presentations that may not be frequently seen.
While maintaining certification through NREMT is important, we also must address training that is specific to the environment in which we work. This means that we are reviewing updates to Health, Safety, and Environment training along with required credentials such as the Transportation Workers Identification Credential and cold-water survival.
What does all of this mean? It means that when we are working, we are still able to work toward certification maintenance. But, when we are not out at a remote worksite, we still work toward maintaining certification. In the end, this benefits not only our clients and patients, but our lively hood as well.
By Scott Nelson, B.S., NRP, MICP