So, it’s EMS Week. Hopefully, by now, you’ve gotten your free cafeteria meal and/or slices of Little Caesar’s pizza from your local hospital, assuming the nurses didn’t eat it before you got there. You might’ve even gotten a t-shirt or some other motivational knickknack. It probably has some inspirational saying and lots of Stars of Life festooned all over it. After all, you’re a lifesaver. You race the reaper. You’re special, dammit!
Ok, time for us to take a minute and grow up. I mean, for real. Last night, I got involved in an online discussion about EMS providers in an unnamed state (let’s call it the Keystone State, for the sake of this discussion) being required to retake the National Registry if they were even a half hour short on continuing education.
Gasp. Horror. OHMYGOD — ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE! How dare these people be held accountable? We’re always saying EMS doesn’t get trust or respect from the rest of the healthcare and public safety world. Why? Because we don’t want accountability. Whether or not you like the rule, it’s there. And if you’re a professional, you have to take responsibility for maintaining your certification. And yes, that includes taking the initiative to maintain and keep up your continuing education hours. No one else, other than you, has that obligation to yourself. In other words, if you want to maintain the ability to feed yourself as an EMT or a paramedic, you’ve gotta get the CE hours. No way around it.
So, when everyone finally realizes that’s part of the deal to being a medic, then the argument comes out that no other healthcare providers have to take the licensing exam again if they don’t have their CE hours. Whose fault is that? It’s ours.
But how is it our fault? Quite simply, we’ve given up (and probably never had) any semblance of being interested in or capable of self-regulation. How many EMS people know how their state’s EMS legal and regulatory framework is set up? Know where to find your state EMS Act? Know where to find the physician licensing statutes? (Because that’s probably got the information about what and how a physician can delegate practice to EMS providers.) Know where your state’s EMS administrative rules are?
Ok, do you know how these things are created? Can you describe how a bill becomes a law in your state legislature? Can you describe how an administrative rule or regulation is adopted in your state? Know what a public comment period is? Know how to file a public comment?
If you don’t know, or worse yet, if you don’t care — you are why EMS is held back. I will guarantee you that part of why nurses have the power in the healthcare world is because nurses are organized. They fight like hell to maintain their own professional regulation. They have state nursing associations to fight at the state capitol and to tangle with bureaucrats and regulators. And as such, they, along with physicians, dentists, and even lawyers have their own professional regulatory boards. And these boards, wait for it — they’re largely made up of the professionals that they’re licensing and regulating. Us? Most states don’t have an EMS regulatory board. We’re slammed into the state health and human services bureaucracy right there with the tanning salons, tattoo parlors, and giving immunizations and running mental hospitals. No wonder we’re neglected.
It’s a lot more fun to bash lawyers. But good administrative lawyers who can deal with the regulatory machine and lobbyists who know the state legislative process are what EMS needs to advance. Where’s EMS at the state capitol? Not present, except for maybe a congratulatory resolution during EMS Week. It’s the political version of Miss Congeniality or “everyone gets a trophy.”
Meanwhile, our national EMS association that claims to be the voice of EMS continues to tilt at windmills at the Federal level and think that passing the so-called Field EMS Bill and its grant funding mechanism will fix EMS. Nope. Not hardly.
What will fix EMS is when we grow up, demand self-regulation as profession, and grow the political skills to make it happen — and then keep it.
Let’s make EMS Week 2014 the point at which EMS grows up and becomes a profession. But first, grab that last slice of Canadian bacon and olive pizza before Tina from Radiology gets it.