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One of the more interesting recommendations in the draft standards calls for competency-based rather than hours-based education. In essence, you can sit for 1,300 hours for a paramedic and still not be competent at intubating a patient. Essentially, instead of emphasizing the amount of hours a student sits in the classroom, the new standard would address the issue of the student demonstrating and proving their competency in certain skills.
One big issue for the fire service is how additional hours of education impact fire departments. There is no doubt that additional hours can impact fire departments because firefighters will be in EMS education programs for longer periods. This translates to a firefighter possibly being less available to respond to emergencies and additional costs to fire departments. This could have a tremendous impact on the volunteer fire service, which is already challenged with retaining and recruiting members. The new draft standards also no longer involve ambulance driving, staging and scene positioning. The project team that drew up the draft standards felt these operational issues were best left to the employer who would teach these skills during orientation or on-the-job training.
The stakeholders group will be getting together in early 2008 with the goal of reviewing the comments received during the comment period. It widely expected that the new EMS education standards will be released in 2010. Shortly thereafter, publishers will begin publishing textbooks with the new standards. Stand by!