A Farewell to the NAEMT

Dear Mr. Zavadsky:

First of all, I appreciate your offer to reach out last week after my blog entry regarding my views on what appeared to be NAEMT’s no position of a position statement on the ongoing discussion regarding a degree requirement for paramedics.  Unfortunately, our schedules have yet to match up.  But I did find the explanation provided by one other NAEMT insider to be interesting to say the least – namely that the NAEMT position statement had been in the works for a while and was unrelated to the competing positions from other EMS and fire organizations regarding a paramedic degree requirement.  I might have been willing to believe such a statement had NAEMT (or you) provided such a background statement in conjunction with NAEMT’s position statement. However, such an explanation at this point, when prior opportunities were available, strikes me much more as an attempt at damage control than providing a nuanced policy statement. The fact that NAEMT hasn’t publicly clarified this statement speaks even louder as to the organization’s unwillingness to take a position. I stand by my original position that a degree requirement is worth exploring for paramedics, but will also require significant planning and buy-in from higher education stakeholders.

I was almost willing to view this position statement as merely another failed opportunity for NAEMT to advocate for the EMS profession until today.  As you know, last week, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke against EMS pay increases for New York City EMS professionals in comparison to Fire Department, Police Department, and Sanitation Department employees claiming, “The work is different.”  EMS social media roared. NAEMT was, once again, silent. Today, however, the National Association of EMS Physicians released a position advocating for EMS pay to be commensurate with the responsibilities of EMS providers. Again, I note – NAEMT, the supposed voice for “advancing the EMS profession,” was silent.

Two such notable flubs in the span of less than two weeks speaks volumes as to the culture and leadership of NAEMT.  I’ve criticized NAEMT before for a variety of issues, namely a focus on quixotic efforts to lobby the Federal government for programs that may not benefit our profession as a whole, a lack of advocacy at the state levels, and an overreliance on revenue from card courses.

More than anything, what I’ve seen from NAEMT is a continued failure to advocate for EMS for fear that it may ruffle some feathers.  What I also see is a culture that has the same usual crowd of EMS insiders and their cronies placed in positions of leadership. (In all fairness, I do have a great deal of respect for you and several of the board members.) This culture has created an organization that is slow to respond to the needs of EMS and to the news cycle as EMS is impacted. When applications for new positions and committee members are sought, it’s always the same names that you always see in EMS.  NAEMT has failed to develop a next generation of EMS leaders and advocates.

Finally, I see an overreliance by NAEMT on revenue from a plethora of card courses. NAEMT’s reliance on said revenue and the partnerships with textbook publishers mean that these largely repetitive card courses are seen as much as a cash cow as they are an actual source of current medical education. I’ve taught Advanced Medical Life Support for years and have even been affiliate faculty for the program.  However, the rise of social media and FOAM efforts means that many continuing education programs on a four-year cycle are, by their very nature, outdated.  Yet, NAEMT produces new courses every year and the publishers produce new updates and required materials on the same basis.

To me, NAEMT’s main benefit consists of the various discounts provided and discounted admission to the EMS World Expo.  While there have been some quality speakers at EMS World Expo, I’d also note that there are many presenters and topics at the conference which do not advance EMS and instead serve the “meets minimum standards” and “lowest common denominator” level of the EMS trade.  Note that I did not say “profession” in this case.

I fully expect that there will be consequences from my communication.  I say this not out of spite, but out of the recognition that my interests as an EMS professional aren’t always recognized by NAEMT.  I will quote another paramedic colleague of mine who says, “I am a member of NAEMSP, but not of NAEMT. I like my money to go someplace useful.”

Accordingly, I choose to speak with a clear action.  I hereby resign my membership in the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians.

 

Lead, Follow, or Get the Hell Out of the Way

If you’ve been following any EMS news as of late, you’ve read about the position paper that paramedics should have a minimum of a two year degree. The position paper was issued by the National Association of EMS Educators, the National EMS Management Association, and the International Association of Flight and Critical Care Paramedics. The position paper was peer reviewed and published in the academic journal Prehospital Emergency Care.  Shortly thereafter, what could charitably be called a rebuttal was issued by the International Association of Firefighters and the International Association of Fire Chiefs. Needless to say, the fire service, with some notable exceptions, has little interest in advancing EMS except as a continued source of revenue and mission creep.

So, you ask where our national “voice for EMS” was and what they had to say. Basically, what they said was that there were competing positions worthy of further study. In other words, they took no position.  Regardless of my feelings about the IAFF, the IAFC, and the fire service in general terms, the fire service took a position and they advocated for what they believe to be in the best interest of their members and their trade. I’ll give them respect for that.  And they’ve, by and large, been successful in crafting public policy to their benefit.  The NAEMT?  Not so much.  They took no position. As the famed Texas liberal populist Jim Hightower once said, “There’s nothing in the middle of the road but a yellow stripe and dead armadillos.”

One can argue that by taking no position, the NAEMT took a position in favor of the status quo, which may actually be closer to the IAFC/IAFF position which can be summed up by Pink Floyd, “We don’t need no education.” In all candor, I do think there are significant challenges and hurdles that face EMS if we advance to a degree requirement and that such challenges need to be seriously discussed, especially with higher education leaders.

But NAEMT is an enigma in the world of professional associations.  NAEMT’s primary connection to most members is its development, marketing, and delivery of a plethora of card courses, which are NAEMT’s primary revenue source. NAEMT’s lobbying efforts are primarily directed at the Federal level, while the majority of EMS regulation and legislation happens at the local and state levels. The one clearly identified national level solution, namely a change to how the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) funds EMS, doesn’t appear to be on NAEMT’s radar. For me, as an EMS provider, the main benefit that NAEMT provides me are member discounts.  NAEMT’s real challenge is that it claims to represent any and all with an EMS certification. As I’ve said before, there’s not a ton of common ground to be found between everyone in EMS.  A flight medic working in rural Nevada has very different needs and wants from their professional association than does a firefighter/EMT who maintains their EMT certification because it’s a condition of employment at their department.

Maybe it is time to realize that NAEMT doesn’t speak for EMS.  And just maybe it’s time for paramedics to demand a separate voice for the advancement of paramedics. After all, the American Bar Association doesn’t represent attorneys, paralegals, law clerks, and legal assistants. The American Bar Association represents lawyers and lawyers alone.

Anyone for a National Association of Paramedics? And the acronym also reminds me of many paramedics’ favorite pastime, me included, namely NAP.

It’s time for paramedics to be our own voice and advocate for ourselves.

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