New EMT trainings cause concern
By Eric Blaisdell
STAFF WRITER | December 24,2012
Mark Collier / Staff File PhotO
Barre City emergency personnel prepare a crash victim for transport earlier this year. A new system will reclassify the different kinds of emergency workers, and the types of aid they can provide.
WATERBURY — Some are questioning the state’s practices regarding the re-licensing of individuals who teach emergency workers how to save lives.
The state’s Office of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) is in the process of transitioning to the new National EMS Scope of Practice and Education Standards that describes what a licensed emergency worker can and can’t legally do. Vermont’s EMS director, Chris Bell, said the new protocols will call for additional skills and a more comprehensive understanding of human anatomy and physiology.
Bell said the new system will also reclassify the various levels of emergency medical workers. The 232 emergency care attendants in the state will now be called emergency responders; the 1,305 basic emergency medical technicians will now be called emergency medical technicians; the 847 intermediate emergency medical technicians will be called advanced emergency technicians; and the 262 emergency medical technician paramedics will now be called paramedics.
As part of the transition to the new Scope of Practice, a training session of roughly 3 1/2 hours was held in October at an EMS conference in Burlington. About 45 of the state’s approximately 75 “instructor-coordinators” — people who train emergency medical workers — attended lectures on the new protocols and took part in hands-on skills training activities. At the conclusion of the training session, all the instructor-coordinators in attendance were told they were now licensed under the new system.
Bell said those who didn’t attend the training session will have to take a transitional course which the state is recommending be at least 13 hours in length. EMS districts throughout the state can require additional hours of training if necessary depending on the experience and competencies of the medical workers being trained.
Mark Podgwaite — training coordinator for EMS District 6 in the Barre-Montpelier area and chairman of District 5 in the St. Johnsbury area — said many states around the country are requiring their intermediate EMTs, for example, to take 36 hours of additional training in order to become advanced EMTs.
The brevity of the training session at the October EMS conference has some people worried.
Jayna Guilford, who works for the Waterbury Ambulance Service as an intermediate EMT, said she was “a little scared” when she heard about the mass licensing session in October and how few hours the instructor-coordinators apparently had to train to get their new licenses.
Emphasizing that she was speaking for herself only, Guilford said, “I don’t think its a good precedent for Vermont to set, given it’s people’s lives that we are taking into our hands... We’re putting people out at a higher level of certification than they’ve been trained for.”
She said she would not have accepted that option for upgrading her license if it were offered.
“I want to be as prepared as possible,” she said. “I would not accept a license that I had not been trained on all the aspects and skills for.”
Michelle Franklin, who also works for the Waterbury Ambulance Service, is an instructor-coordinator who attended the October training and is now an advanced EMT. Franklin said while she has full confidence in her ability to do the job, having taken a 16-month course for paramedics, she was uncomfortable with giving the new license out so readily to some of the other instructor-coordinators who may not have as much experience or knowledge as she does.
She said the EMS office is taking an approach of “I trust you’ll read and learn this material before you go and teach it.”
Bell, the Vermont EMS director, said he could understand the concern if the instructor-coordinators were “getting away with something,” but he said they are not. He said all EMTs already have to put in 72 hours of training every two years to make sure they stay up-to-date with new practices. Whether the medical workers have to train for three hours or 36 for their new licenses, the figure gets deducted from the 72 hours threshold.
He said any instructor-coordinators who attended the October training session will get credit only for the three and a half hours they were trained.
Bell defended the shorter training session, saying the instructor-coordinators already have a “greater depth of understanding” of the material than non-instructors, since they work with it and teach it on a regular basis.
He added that anyone who is now considered an advanced EMT can’t yet perform any of the new procedures because the state still has yet to formally issue the new protocols. Bell expects the protocols to be finalized in May,
Two public hearings on the new protocols and how they will affect emergency medical services in Vermont are scheduled for Jan 15 from 6 to 8 p.m. and Jan. 16 from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Vermont Department of Health in Burlington.