What Matters More: How Education and Experience Affect Paramedic Readiness

Authors: Michael A. Kaduce, MPS, NRP Maritza V. Steele, BA Kevin Loughlin, MS Sarah C. Glass, BS, NRP Thomas L. Fentress, MBA, NRP, PI, CFI Pete Ordille, BS, NRP Michael McDonald, BSN, RN, NRP Jennifer C. Berry, BA, NREMT James D. Dinsch, MS, NRP, CCEMT-P

Introduction: There are no bigger contested predictors of classroom success than education and experience. Paramedics, educators, and students all have opinions on what combination of experience and education will lead to the best paramedic. Even the data can provide conflicting information. A 2017 paper found nursing students who only graduated high school performed significantly worse than students with a prior bachelor’s degree. In contrast, a 2011 study showed an inverse relationship between years of experience and pass rates. This study sought to determine how education or years of experience prior to paramedic training related to paramedic readiness exam pass rates.

Methods: A retrospective review of FISDAP paramedic student data was analyzed for selfreported education and experience level on FISDAP provided selections when registering for the entrance exam. Only students who attempted a paramedic comprehensive exam were included. One-way ANOVA was used to determine association in variables in FISDAP paramedic exams pass rates (≥72.5%) among students with varying education levels and years of experience. Logistic regression models were fitted (a=0.05) using nominal predictor variables for education level (e.g., high school diploma/GED, associate degree, or bachelor’s degree) and years of experience in the field (e.g., less than 1 year, 2-5 years, 6-10 years, or more than 10 years).

Results: Students with an associate or bachelor’s degree are more likely to pass the readiness exam than those with a high school diploma or GED (General Equivalency Diploma). Students with any degree are more likely to pass the readiness exam than those with a high school diploma or GED. Students with 2 to 10 years of experience are more likely to pass the readiness exam than those with less than 1 year of experience. Students with 2 to 10 years of experience are more likely to pass than those with more than 10 years of experience. There is no difference in pass rates in students with 2 to 5 and 6 to 10 years of experience. Discussion: Paramedic programs may evaluate candidates’ education and experience prior to admission when selecting the best candidate for paramedic school or considering setting experience and education requirements for entry. Inevitably, predicting paramedic student readiness is important to program success. A 2008 study found students with 16 and 17 years of education were more successful on the National Registry cognitive exam (Fernandez, Studnek, Margolis, 2008). A 2017 study also found students seeking a nursing degree with previous experience completing a degree were more successful on becoming certified (Kaddoura, Flint, Van Dyke, Yang, & Chiang, 2017). This study did find different results than a 2011 study of North Carolina EMS students which found an inverse relationship between North Carolina Paramedic Credentialing Exam success and years of experience (Studnek, Fernandez, Shimberg, Garifo, Correll, 2011). This study helps delineate which type of education and experience matters most in successful paramedic students but also begs the question: Are there are other predictors of paramedic success?

Conclusion: Students with a degree are more likely to pass the readiness exam and students with 2-10 years of experience are more likely to pass the readiness exam than students with less than 1 or more than 10 years of experience. What Matters More: How Education and Experience Affect Paramedic Readiness