By now you’ve all heard of the flap that is happening in Mass. regarding the 200 or so EMTs and Paramedics that had their licenses suspended or revoked for running a non-existent training program or for falsely representing that they attended non-existent training classes. If you haven’t heard about it by now, you’re probably not following EMS news as much as you should.
The issue has been discussed quite a bit around the EMS blogosphere. Some big name bloggers have written on it, and I even discussed it a little bit on the EMS Educast the other day.
Here’s TOTWTYTR’s take on this: I’m Not Very Sympathetic
And here’s Rogue Medic’s take on it: (this is a part-2 that reiterates the first)
Other than for speaking about the issue briefly, I’ve been avoiding writing on it. My job is usually to report positive things that are happening in the EMS world and this is definitely not a positive thing. In fact, it’s a disgrace to us all. Rogue Medic has it right when he asks the question “Why do we Encourage such apathy in EMS?”
And that’s what this is. It’s not just that it’s apathy for the boring destruction of brain cells that we call “Continuing Education” in most areas of EMS, it’s the apathy for the whole process. The apathy where we as a profession have let the standards get to this point.
I mean, really. How many of you feel that the continuing education you receive is anything more than something you have to do in order to keep your license up? How many of you feel that your regularly scheduled, mandatory, continuing education classes are of any quality? How many of you feel like they’re actually doing anything good for you?
And that’s the system in which we function. TOTWTYTR made the statement that he sits through boring traning classes all the time because those are the hoops he has to jump through in order to maintain his licensure. I do too, of course. I sit through probably as many or even more classes than anyone reading this article because I am a practicing paramedic with National Registry and licensure in three states. Sometimes the training from one state carries over into the next, and sometimes it doesn’t. At any rate, I get to listen to unmotivated speakers read flat material whilst sitting in an uncomfortable chair on a very regular basis. We all do.
However, I feel that I keep up my continuing education quite well on my own through other means such as extensive self study and non-credit medical education. Keeping my professional skills sharp is very important for me because not only am I proud of my professional skills, but I am well aware of the fact that the quality of my skills translates into the quality of life for my patients. If I keep myself sharp, I’m a better paramedic. If I let them get dull, well then I’m an apathetic paramedic who isn’t doing my duty. Duty is important to me. So are things like Pride, Professionalism, and Honor. In fact, those three words are more than just the slogan for my blog, they are how I think that I and other EMS professionals should live their lives and careers.
Others have been quick to demonize the 200 suspended EMTs. Others have been quick to defend them. The ones defending them have said that these people are apt to lose their incomes, their livelihoods, and that the punishment is unfair. Well, for that part I disagree. The punishment is indeed fair. You could have killed someone by being untrained oafs with lackluster skills. You never proved you were otherwise. However, if you were to ask me if I thought that a state EMS agency – ANY state EMS agency – was competent to manage such a program, I would laugh at you. Every state has made an attempt to regulate continuing education and I agree that there is a good reason for them to do so. I would also agree that the prospect of regulating a group of EMS people in their continuing education efforts is a daunting task. I would say that the perfect system has yet to be developed and that a good number of the 200 were simply “playing the game” and thought that since their states EMS continuing educational system was a joke that they could make a joke out of it as well.
Here’s the most biting apathy of all to me. If you believe that a system that you work under is a joke. If you believe that there is a better way to do something. If you believe that what you’re made to do is pointless and obsolete… then why the heck haven’t you done anything about it?
I’d like you to look at this issue from this perspective, folks. Sure, not everyone in that group of 200 were caring, competent professionals. I’m sure some of them were jackasses. (And yes, I said “Jackasses). However, I’m also sure that there is a percentage of them in that group that sincerely care about being the best they can be in EMS and they simply got caught up in the mob mentality. I’m sure that some of them had just given up. I’m sure some of them were good people who just became apathetic.
I hate apathy.
If what, say 50% of that group were of the caring kind, that leaves 100 people who thought that the system was broken. Did it not occur to any of those 100 people to try and change it? Did they not try and band together to improve the system? Could one person do it? Could 100 people do it?
If we are to be regulated and controlled by obsolete and ineffective bureaucratic systems, then it is our duty to rise up and change things. Sure, that sounds melodramatic… but how many times have you thought that your state regulations were stupid. One of the defining aspects of a Profession is Self-Regulation. Look at your states “Bar Association” for Lawyers, or the states “Medical Association” for physicians.
Is there any state out there that has a “Paramedic’s Association” that has any teeth to it?
No continuing education system or relicensure processes is even close to perfect. That’s because of a few reasons, not the least of which is because the government is the one running it. The other reason could be because it isn’t being policed by the paramedics who care about it the most.
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. It’s time for us to take ownership of our profession. Stand up and make this the profession it deserves to be. Stamp out apathy and band together to let your voices be heard. If you don’t start the process of meaningful change, who do you expect to do so?
For more positive discussion on EMS, check out the comments section in “Negativity? You Won’t Find That Here” or for a description of two real-world moral and ethical dilemmas in EMS, check out “Two Cases, one letter. From one paramedic’s struggles, change can come”