The following abstract was developed during the 2012 Research Summit and won Best Presentation at the 2012 NAEMSE Symposium in Orlando, FL.

Is EMS Colorblind?

Heather Davis, MS, NREMT-P

Introduction: A documented achievement gap exists in K-12 and higher education among minority students, but no data exists to describe how minority students perform in paramedic education programs.

Hypothesis: Paramedic student demographics effect attrition.

Methods: Demographic data from paramedic students who opened and maintained accounts in FISDAP, a national student data tracking system, beginning in the didactic phase of their program through clinical, internship, and graduation and whose data were verified by faculty between 2001 and 2011 were included in the study. The outcome variable was graduation status. Independent variables included age, gender, and ethnicity. Any "unspecified" data were excluded since "unspecified" is the default for each category. Ethnic categories of African American, Native American, Hispanic, Asian and Other were combined to create a category called "minority" as only 11% of all respondents identified themselves as any ethnicity other than Caucasian.

Given that a large sample size was expected, alpha was set at 0.01. A chi square was used to determine if the proportion of students who did not graduate differed based on minority status. Logistic regression modeling was used to determine the measure of effect.

Results: Of 4,940 paramedic students included in the study, only 5% did not graduate. Of the 273 who did not graduate, there was no statistically significant difference between minority groups and non-minorities in the categories of age, gender, and ethnicity. While not statistically significant because alpha was set at 0.01, p=0.047 for ethnicity with an odds ratio of 1.44, indicating that non-whites are 1.4 times more likely to not graduate than Caucasian students.

Conclusion and Discussion: This study failed to reject the null hypothesis. Course completion does not differ with minority status. Previous studies have demonstrated that minority students perform more poorly on the national licensing exam. Entrance into paramedic school often requires successful completion of a standardized test. The EMS workforce is 88% Caucasian male. Further research should be conducted to determine if the low number of minority students in paramedic programs is an access barrier created by the entrance exam or if it may be a recruitment issue based on lack of representation in the workforce.