EMS Education Agenda for the Future: A System’s Approach

Emergency medical services as a profession is barely a generation old. As is true of most new professions, there was no “master plan” to guide its evolution systematically, nor did it closely follow the models of other allied health professions. During the last 40 years, effective components of quality EMS education have emerged. Unfortunately, these individual parts have developed separately; currently there is no model for an EMS education system in which the components are clearly defined, their interrelationships described, and the decision-making process for modification and improvement established.

Although many outstanding EMS providers have been educated during the last 40 years, the absence of a structured system has resulted in considerable State-by-State variability in EMS education and licensure, and the lack of clear-cut future direction. The absence of a formal EMS education system has also led to inconsistencies among the various curricula, inadequate bridging from one provider level to another, and difficulty for an EMS professional to transfer from one State to another.

EMS and the world we live in today are very different from 40 years ago. Major technological and medical advances have resulted in drastic changes in emergency care. We live in a world that is increasingly more global and more mobile -- with the need to respond to different kinds of emergencies. The need for an organized system of EMS education and licensure seems clear. The EMS Education Agenda for the Future: A Systems Approach gives EMS the opportunity to honor the foresight of our predecessors and build upon the foundation they created by designing a structure for the EMS education system that extends their vision far into this millennium.

The Education Agenda includes five interdependent system components:

  1. The National EMS Core Content
    A comprehensive list of the entire domain of skills and knowledge needed for out-of-hospital emergency care.

  2. The National EMS Scope of Practice Model
    Divides the National EMS Core Content into levels of practice and defines the skills and knowledge that each provider level must possess. This serves as a model for levels of State EMS licensing.

  3. The National EMS Education Standards
    Replaces the current National Standard Curricula and specifies minimum learning objectives for each provider level.

  4. National EMS Education Program Accreditation
    Applied to all nationally recognized EMS provider levels and is accepted nationally. Accreditation verifies the quality of educational programs to protect students and the public, and it enhances evaluation of instructional quality.

  5. National EMS Certification
    Available for all nationally recognized provider levels and is accepted nationally. Certification involves a standardized examination process and contributes to the protection of the public by ensuring the entry-level competence of EMS providers. In order to be eligible for National EMS Certification, a student must have graduated from an accredited program.

The EMS Education Agenda for the Future is a vision for the future, providing an organized, ongoing process for accommodating medical and technological advances that have an impact on the scope and content of EMS education. It will provide a model for the process of educating the emergency care providers of the future. To date, the National EMS Core Content and the Scope of Practice Model are complete and attention is now focused on completing the National EMS Education Standards. The process for the completion of all five of the agenda’s components is expected to take some time, and will continue to seek active participation and input from the EMS community as it moves forward. For more information, contact Dave Bryson.