Transitioning from working in the field to instructing EMS students can be incredibly rewarding. But this career shift also presents its own set of challenges.
Many first-time EMS instructors, for example, struggle to feel confident that they've given their students the best shot at passing the National Registry exam the first time around. The good news? There are some proactive steps all beginning EMS instructors can take to better serve and prepare students for work in the field. Read on to learn strategies on how to guide students as a first-time EMS instructor.
Start By Taking an EMS Instructor Course
It all begins with choosing and utilizing the best training resources available. Instructor courses and requirements vary by state, but there are terrific options to get prepared. For example, the National Association of EMS Educators (NAEMSE) offers two courses that cover guidelines in 40 states:
- Level 1 Instructor Course: The National EMS Instructor Courses have been designed and developed in accordance with the DOT/NHTSA National Guidelines for Educating EMS Instructors & the National Education Standards. The IC1 course represents the didactic component and practical application of the educational process for EMS educators specified in over 40 States EMS Rules for Lead Instructors.
- Level 2 Instructor Course: This course is representative of the National Guidelines for EMS Educators and will provide educators and program directors with the tools and information needed to further build their leadership skills and better evaluate programs, students, and faculty. While Level 1 of the NAEMSE instructor course is ideal for the beginning educator, Level 2 is geared more towards the experienced instructor. The Level 2 course represents the next step in the formalized education process.
NAEMSE uses the Foundations of Education: An EMS Approach textbook as the foundation for these courses. This textbook provides EMS educators with the tools, ideas, and information necessary to succeed. Sample chapters of Foundations in Education are available.
Tailor Content to Student Needs
Though standards are state-specific, all EMS services are local. Therefore, first-time EMS instructors should consider incorporating content that is relevant to their students by using local examples.
For example, rather than including content about the response to mass casualty events that have been widely reported in the media such as 9/11 or the Parkland school shooting, instructors could consider the response to a local highway accident or domestic violence situation.
Simulations are a great tool. These include approximating real-world experience as closely as possible in a controlled classroom setting. The key here is to present situations and assess students against what they may have to deal with on a day-to-day basis within the community they’ll serve.
Stay on Top of Industry Changes
Public safety guidelines are constantly changing and being updated, and it's up to EMS instructors to stay on top of these changes so they can tailor their content accordingly. For example, the emergency medical services saw huge changes as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic; this included changes to the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other protocols to keep themselves safe from COVID-19.
That said, it is critically important to stay on top of local guidelines, protocols and, to an extent, local government. While major changes at a state and national level are relatively rare, local guidelines can be more frequently updated, potentially even on an ad hoc basis depending on the size of the community. Ultimately, the burden of keeping students up to date on changes as they occur falls on the instructor.
Learn From Others
Though continuous education as an EMS professional in the field is essential, it is even more critical that EMS instructors stay on top of guidelines but also educational trends.
First-time EMS instructors could consider attending a national annual conference such as EMS World or NAEMSE’s Educational Symposium, or smaller and local conferences, particularly if there is one based in your immediate area that is recommended by other educators that you trust.
The National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians (NAEMT) publishes a list of key EMS conferences, which is updated annually.
Additionally, there are several publications dedicated to the field of EMS. The Journal of Emergency Medical Services, known widely as “JEMS,” and EMS World Magazine are two of the major media outlets serving emergency services. Also, we would encourage frequent visits to ems.gov, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website dedicated to EMS professionals.
Also, following the #EMS hashtag on LinkedIn and other social media platforms can be beneficial for first-time EMS instructors. An abundance of Google groups and other chat threads may also be found online to help you stay abreast of the latest topics and issues facing EMS educators.
Whenever possible, instructors are encouraged to share lesson plans and other materials with other instructors. Additionally, seeking a mentor can be incredibly helpful for first timers in EMS education. Even departments and agencies using the same training materials may find different and unique ways to present and teach the material—the flipped classroom approach has become popular, as an example—so new perspectives should always be welcome. The same concept applies to communicating with other instructors within the same department. A team mentality can go a long way here, and instructors can learn a lot from each other regardless of their level of experience.
Hear how Grant Cesarek, Deputy Chief of Planning at Golder Ranch Fire District in Tucson, Arizona, quickly organized a training academy and taught 20 EMTs during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020:
Remember the End Goal
At the end of the day, all EMS instructors share the same goal: to prepare students for successful careers in the field. For some EMS instructors, a measure of success is also how many students pass their courses or pass exams like those offered by the National Registry of EMTs. For others, the goal is to fully prepare their students for the many mental, physical, and emotional challenges ahead as they enter a career om EMS.
Making a conscious effort to regularly reflect on the end goal is important. Ultimately, EMS instructors have the livelihoods of their students in the palms of their hands—and this is not a responsibility to be taken lightly.
Don’t Reinvent the Wheel – Rely on Trusted Educational Resources
If you are starting off trying to rebuild curricula and primary source materials, there’s great news: You don’t have to. There are often multiple credible, widely used training programs available to support any course being offered by your institution. Instead of reinventing the wheel by creating new materials, focus on how you can supplement or enhance market-leading textbooks and learning materials to deliver a better overall learning experience.
Ideally, new instructors will be working with a comprehensive package that provides not just a traditional textbook, but assessments, analytics, active learning activities, and more.
Specifically, first-time instructors can get a lot out of these resources while enhancing their own teaching. For example, if a learning platform offers access control, an instructor might consider restricting access to later chapters/segments to ensure that students have first mastered the information that is being covered. By digging into the instructor interface and becoming familiar with all the features available, EMS teachers can more confidently serve their students.
Public Safety Group aims to support EMS instructors with quality training materials for both traditional and flipped classrooms. From our popular Emergency Care and Transportation of the Sick and Injured Digital Advantage Package, Twelfth Edition to our EMT Flipped Classroom Package, First Edition, our tools provide the up-to-date information students and instructors need in these changing times. Then, our highly-experiences Sales and Support teams can help show new educators how to quickly onboard and make the greatest use of these tools. The greater an educator’s proficiency in leveraging best in class digital learning tools, the greater the likelihood that he or she is positioned to deliver a great student experience.
Browse our featured EMS/EMT products today and reach out to our team for help in making the right selection for any classroom.