I’ve been blogging a bit more lately and engaging myself a bit more in the EMS world, both locally and in social media. One continuing theme I notice in EMS is that there’s a sizable number of EMS providers who actively discount and discourage education.
Whether it’s derisive comments about being “book smart” versus “street smart,” comments discounting the importance of an entry level exam to determine a safe level of minimal competency, or the constant demands to water down the curriculum because we “don’t need to know it,” the reality is that the rampant anti-intellectualism in EMS holds us back from professional development, respect, and ultimately a sustainable career path as a prehospital professional. Additionally, our rampant discounting of knowledge and education means that we’ve placed the EMS profession at the mercy of others to determine our destiny. Bluntly, look at the number of non-EMS types on almost any committee discussing EMS, whether regulations, education, or practice. You’ll never see that ratio of non-professionals in any other health care profession. The solution is simple. Our profession has to embrace both the academic pursuit of prehospital care and developing a professional identity (and knowledge base) of what EMS is.
The extreme focus on skills to the detriment of a core foundation of knowledge dooms EMS to being, at best, a skilled trade. There’s nothing wrong with a skilled trade. I know plumbers and air conditioning techs who make more than many attorneys I know. But I also know that there aren’t skilled trades in healthcare. EMS has to have a professional identity, which begins with a core set of knowledge.
When we embrace that there is a core set of intellectual knowledge to be an EMS professional, we will find that we control our destiny as a profession. Whether the future in EMS is community paramedicine, critical care, tactical casualty care, or even something we haven’t yet identified, EMS can’t grow or move forward until we realize, recognize, and embrace that there have to be minimal standards to entry into the profession and that there’s a core base of knowledge in EMS, which should ideally be developed and guarded by EMS professionals. Until then, we’re just complaining about the test being too hard, wondering why the average EMT could make as much money at McDonald’s, and wondering why so many good medics leave EMS for another field.