My Love Hate Relationship With EMS Social Media

Sorry for the delay in blogging.  None of my usual pet peeves have inspired me to blog as of late.  The truth is that volunteer EMS still has the same challenges and people still put beans in their chili, so maybe I needed to find something new to write about.  And something I shared last week on social media hit me.

I have a love-hate relationship with the internet, social media, and with EMS social media in particular.  I’ve made some incredible friends all over the world, some of whom I’ve met in real life.  Others I’ve yet to meet in real life, but I feel as if I’ve known them all of my life. But there’s also parts that drive me crazy beyond belief, yet I keep coming back to them like the guilty pleasure of watching Jerry Springer or Cops – or the morbid curiosity of looking at a car wreck.  Namely, I keep coming back to the amount of wrong information and/or dogma being spread online.  I used to try to engage and educate and I’ve stepped back a lot from that.  It’s like most debates with the willfully ignorant online: debating online with a moron is like playing chess with a pigeon —  it knocks the pieces over, craps on the board, and flies back to its flock to claim victory.

Image result for someone is being wrong on the internet

So, as a result, I’ve largely retreated and find my pleasure in sharing the stupid privately with like minded friends.  We largely laugh and bemoan the state of EMS and medicine in that such standards are allowed to exist.

The below average person in EMS (who we regularly mock) copes by making fun of patients, engaging in patient abuse, and the like because it’s their crummy coping mechanism for the things they don’t like, understand, or control about EMS. I think a large part of that comes from seeing the same things over and over.  I get that.

For me and people like me, what bothers us seems to be people repeating dogma, those failing to take personal responsibility for their development, and the general low standards out there. I’m as guilty of this as anyone here, if not more so, but I wonder if seeing that dumb behavior has made us cynical and jaded enough that we automatically assume the worst when we see someone post something that seems dumb as opposed to assuming they have a legit question or need for help? Heck, with the benefit of a bit of hindsight, I wonder how many of my questions as a newer EMT or paramedic came across that way.

I start wondering how many legitimate questions get overlooked because of the amount of chaff (IE dogma and mindless repetition) on EMS social media.   A friend of mine asked the same question and recognized that it’s hard to separate real questions from trolling. And then he asked the most important question, “Where do we draw the line at eating our own versus getting rid of an actual problem?”

I don’t have an answer to that.  What I do know is that the “eating our own” will likely continue as long as EMS education’s entry requirements focus on whether the check bounced and whether educational programs see their obligation as producing qualified clinicians as opposed to maintaining an arbitrary retention rate mandated from on high.

As long as retention remains more important than quality, I don’t think EMS social media will see an end to the “How do I pass National Registry?  I’ve failed four times already.” questions.

The challenge for those of us who want to excel in EMS is how to mentor and guide future clinicians without being jaded.  On a positive note, if it makes you feel any better, the attorney social media groups have enough of the same issues that I regularly wonder how some graduated law school or passed the bar exam.

On Rhode Island

Point of personal privilege here. Because I’m about to rant. And seeing as this is my blog, that’s why you’re here, right?   Sorry, not sorry, that there aren’t any Baby Yoda or cat memes here.

There’s a ton of people posting memes making fun of Rhode Island EMT-Cardiacs and their supposed inability to master advanced airway management.  Most of these memes are being posted by people who like to fashion themselves the fountains of all EMS wisdom and knowledge.  Further, some of these same types believe that their fecal material is non-odorific.

I don’t blame the average Rhode Island EMT-Cardiac for this.  (FYI, for those of you unfamiliar with the certification, the scope is somewhere between Advanced EMT and Paramedic.)  They’re working in a system that they likely didn’t develop.  And at least some, including at least one friend who I’ve literally broken bread with, are competent providers.

I do blame a toxic political culture in Rhode Island where the IAFF, fire chiefs, and politicians hold more sway over the regulation and development of the state’s arguably dated EMS system than do physicians. Rhode Island has its share of EMS issues, including an outsized influence by the fire service, fire chiefs, and fire unions and nowhere near enough involvement from EMS physicians.  Rhode Island’s limited provision of ALS care (EMT-Cardiacs aren’t paramedics.  Sorry, not sorry for that truth.) and it’s relative lack of medical dispatching place Rhode Island severely behind the times in terms of prehospital medical care.

And let’s talk about those snarky edgy social media players criticizing Rhode Island EMS.  They claim to be science-based and evidence-based.  Fine.  I’ll give them that. But what they don’t get is public policy or the political process. Nor do they truly get “just culture,” which is (rightly) supposed to be all the rage in medicine these days.  Nope.  It’s much easier to make memes and make fun of the line-level EMS providers than it is to engage in even superficial analysis and note that Rhode Island’s EMS system and the politics behind it are the problem.

I’ll give Rhode Island credit for one thing.  At least someone in Rhode Island is looking at data.  Granted, the political culture up there is doing what ossified political types do — ducking and distracting, but the data is out there.  I wonder where the data is on actual clinical performance and outcomes for some of these “smarter than you” types posting memes and claiming to be “scientists.”

In summation, for all of y’all who are poking fun at individual EMS providers, I’ll leave you with some lyrics from Ice-T.  “Don’t hate the player, hate the game.”

Rural EMS and the Rural Hospital Crisis.

One of the best pieces of advice that an attorney gave me as I entered the legal profession was that I should read the news every day.  He told me that you never know what future cases might be in the news.  Being a bit of a nerd for politics and policy, I still follow that advice.  This morning’s review of the news led me down a trail where I ended up reading an article from a liberal/progressive publication about rural hospitals in Texas closing.

The article had two accounts of patients dying because a rural hospital in northeast Texas had closed. One patient apparently had a heart attack and the other patient had a brain aneurysm. And the article quoted family members and local politicians as saying that these people wouldn’t have died if the little hospital had still been there.

If you’ve got any experience (or even baseline knowledge) of emergency medicine and EMS in particular, you’ll know that rural hospitals have limited capabilities.  In fact, both of the cases in question likely could  not have been stabilized at a local rural hospital. Both of these patients required extensive specialist interventions that would typically be found in a larger city.  In fact, taking these patients to a rural hospital without specialist capabilities would have actually delayed care.  The well-intentioned laws designed to prevent dumping of patients into an emergency department (EMTALA) would have required the initial hospital to find a specialist facility to accept this patient and then transfer care to said facility. Even in other cases, patients admitted to a hospital may require specialist care or intensive care treatment that is largely unavailable in rural hospitals.

A properly trained, staffed, and equipped EMS system would have been able to recognize that these patients required care well above and beyond local capabilities.  Properly trained and equipped paramedics would be able to provide the same resuscitation and stabilization abilities AND transport directly to the appropriate specialist facility.  As I’ve heard said more than once, there’s no magic resuscitation fairy waiting at the hospital.  Resuscitation measures are the same, whether in an inpatient setting or out of hospital.

The solution to healthcare in rural America is not to engage in a quixotic quest to reopen rural hospitals with limited capabilities and delaying access to definitive, specialist care.  The solution is to channel that funding toward expanded access to primary care, specialists making regular visits to rural communities, and establishing a robust EMS system that provides comprehensive and competent paramedic level care. With an aging population that’s poorer than average, a strong EMS system can absolutely make a difference in rural healthcare. And our EMS voices need to say such.  We are the experts on emergency care outside the hospital.  Period.

Journalists know how to write.  They rarely know medicine.  Or policy.  In this case, their advocacy may well harm patients by delaying definitive care in favor of local care.

The Matrix

Ever seen The Matrix?  It’s one of the weirdest movies I’ve ever seen.  The folks who created the movie and that entire universe are definitely creative, if not a bit warped.  But there’s a scene in there that applies to EMS.

In the first Matrix movie, Morpheus offers the protagonist Neo a choice.  “This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill—the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill—you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. Remember: all I’m offering is the truth. Nothing more.”

Reality vs Illusion | image tagged in red pill blue pill,morpheus,democrat,republican,reality | made w/ Imgflip meme maker

The allegory applies to EMS as well. At some point in your EMS career, hopefully early along, you’re offered the choice of the red pill or the blue pill.  You may not even realize you’re being offered this choice, but it’ll happen nonetheless.

For EMS, if you take the blue pill, you’ll be perfectly happy with “meets minimum standards.”  You’ll be able to juggle the inherent contradictions the average EMS provider believes that “we do everything a doctor does, but at 80 miles per hour” and “we don’t diagnose.” (By the way, that’s EXACTLY what doctors, as well as any other clinician, do — diagnose.) You’ll believe that the less than 200 clock hours of training to become an emergency medical technician (EMT) represents a significant level of professional achievement and that such a level of “achievement” qualifies you to “save” your paramedic partner regularly.  In short, you’ll become blissfully ignorant and perfectly happy working the dialysis shuffle and keeping the EMT t-shirt manufacturers in business.

OR…. you can take the red pill. You can learn evidence based medicine.  You can learn the science behind what we do.  You can begin to understand the outside factors that impact EMS — law, politics, and policy.  God forbid, you might even understand that there’s no one single bullet that will fix all of EMS’s problems.  We’ve tried EMS 2.0; we’ve tried “community paramedicine;” and now we’re on the “EMS needs degrees” kick. Truth is — we probably need all of those things to make EMS great again.  And probably some more things need to happen to truly fix EMS.  BUT, you have to be willing to accept the knowledge and education.

Pardon the change in allegory here, but when the snake offers you the forbidden fruit with the gift of knowledge and you eat it, you open your eyes.  And to add one more allegory, you might even see that the emperor has no clothes.

Somewhere along the way in my EMS career, I was fortunate enough to be around some educated and wise folks in prehospital medicine who offered me the red pill and the forbidden fruit.  I opened my eyes and realized that this is the practice of medicine and that it’s a constantly growing field whose only certainty is the growth of that which we don’t know.  I learned to embrace nuance.  I learned to embrace learning.  I think I’m better for it.  And I’d like to hope that some of my patients are better for it.

What would’ve happened had I chosen to take the blue pill and remain complacent, ignorant, and blissful? I’d have been “happy” riding an engine as the token EMT at a volunteer fire department that ran 1-2 calls a shift and where learning wasn’t encouraged. Ignorance would have been bliss.

But would I have truly grown?  Nope.

Do I have regrets?  I absolutely do at times. There are times when doing the right thing isn’t easy. There’s also knowing when to pick your battles.  Anyone who knows me knows that’s a continuing challenge for me. Would I take the same choice again?  Also, yes.

For each of you, there’s a choice each day you practice prehospital medicine.  I hope that you take the choice to stay in Wonderland and see how deep the rabbit hole goes.  You, your patients, and our profession will all get better.

 

The Paramedic Shortage

My good friend (and I daresay mentor) Dr. Bryan Bledose recently opined on the paramedic “shortage” in the United States.

The good doctor mentions several ideas worthy of consideration, including limiting the number of paramedics, improving the scope of basic and intermediate level providers, and allowing for transport to alternate destination.  And like many of the current discussions, he advocates a college degree for paramedic level providers, which is a cause that I can support, given the requisite forethought and groundwork prior to a requirement being instituted.

I really don’t know if the numbers support the assertion that there is a shortage — or that there isn’t.  What I do believe is that a degree requirement is going to exacerbate a shortage.  There’s all the usual arguments that the fire service won’t embrace a degree and that rural EMS will suffer from a lack of access to educational programs.  And the truth is that those are valid concerns.

 

But here’s my real concern. Most all of us know and agree that a college education creates a more well-rounded provider and provides a core curriculum in English and the humanities.  (I’d also note that said core curriculum is one of the least recognized benefits of a college education from many of the loudest EMS degree advocates on social media.)

 

We also know that many EMS organizations are poorly managed and have a toxic organizational culture. How many degree educated paramedics are going to stick around this average EMS workplace with the toxic culture and idiotic management? There’s a lot better places to work much of the time and a degree educated provider is typically educated enough to recognize this. College educated folks are a bit less likely to want to drive a truck around town for twelve hour shifts and eat and perform their bodily functions at the nearest 7-11, depending on the whims of dispatch.  And a college educated professional is unlikely to respond well to unwritten policies and upper management dictating policy through email rants.

If we want to fix EMS and address the paramedic shortage, we need to address working conditions first. And that starts with expecting EMS managers and leaders to actually be competent to run a functional organization.  EMS needs more education, but that education needs to extend well beyond a better way to read an EKG.

And So It Goes

Years ago, my friend Mike Levy used to close out his email blasts on local politics with “and so it goes,” implying his despair that things would change or improve.  This morning, I happened to see an EMS colleague post a cartoon about how everyone wants change, yet no one seems willing to change.  Below are my thoughts on where we’re at in EMS.

 

We hear a bunch of people say we need the next generation of EMS leaders step up. Then we step up and we’re told to wait our turn, bide our time, and not speak until spoken to. Meanwhile, the people who created the problems of modern EMS are on all of the blue ribbon committees and consulting teams to fix the problems they created in the first place. Tact prevents me from naming names, but if you’ve been around EMS for more than fifteen minutes, you’ll recognize the names of what Mad Magazine called the “usual gang of idiots.”

And of course, as is the trend in modern politics, EMS continues looking for the single solution that will fix all that ails EMS.  A few years ago, it was community paramedicine.  (By the way, yours truly still thinks that knowing how to navigate the healthcare and social services systems and pointing patients to the right resources is an essential skill for a medical provider of any sort.)  Now, the latest push for EMS success has been distilled into a single catchphrase: “EMS Needs Degrees.”  It may not be as catchy as Bernie Sanders’ catchphrase of “Medicare For All,” but it’s equally simplistic and just as poorly thought out. Almost no one in EMS has thought out how a degree requirement would work, what such a degree would contain, or even found out if the higher education system(s) have the ability or desire to take on the task of educating paramedics. (Hint: Part of the nursing shortage relates directly to a shortage of qualified nursing faculty.  Considering how few in EMS already have EMS specific degrees, I can’t help but think that the shortage of qualified faculty to teach paramedics at the college level will be even worse.) And now, we have the first state proposing an actual degree requirement for EMS, namely North Carolina, which will require an associate of applied science in EMS to obtain paramedic licensure.  For many people and in many situations, this degree will be the end of their higher education journey, at least in part because the AAS curriculum rarely transitions well to bachelor’s degree requirements.  Once again, EMS looks for an easy fix to a complex problem.  As I like to say, good public policy can rarely be distilled to a meme or fit in a single Tweet.

The issues with EMS are complex and heavily tied to public policy, namely how the Federal government’s two financing mechanisms, Medicare and Medicaid, pay EMS as a transportation service as opposed providing healthcare.  That also explains why the historical option for EMS care is to offer a ride to the hospital emergency department.  But right now, instead of recognizing the need for future EMS leaders to have some concept of management, finance, politics, and public policy, we’re confining what constitutes EMS education to a set of technical skills. (I truly think that some of the loudest voices on EMS social media advocating for a degree are basing what an EMS degree should be on a wish list of skills and technology they’d like for an ambulance.  I’d also note that’s not how most educational models work aside from trade or vocational school.) We are not even guaranteeing that EMS providers are educated in the arts and sciences to understand the hows and whys of medicine and the context in which prehospital medicine fits into everything else.  And going back to my earlier comment about the current crop of so-called EMS leaders not wanting to relinquish their positions — you couldn’t think of a better way to keep the “new kids” out of leadership than to deny them the actual skill set and education they need while claiming that you’re helping the profession advance.

And so it goes.  Indeed.

Quit Operating and Start Treating

It’s time for another one of my trademarked and patented rants on what’s wrong with EMS.  And to keep with the social media crowd, I’ve been triggered.

This afternoon, I received an email from a large, national EMS conference (cough, EMS World Expo, cough) promoting a “Complex Coordinated Terrorist Attack Workshop.” The add-on course, at an added expense of course, includes managing an active shooter incident combined with a hazmat/explosive scenario.  On a similar note, an EMS organization in my neck of the woods is working on a mass casualty scenario involving hostages, improvised explosive devices, and a firefighter down — all in one scenario that’s expected to span an entire day of training.

Right now, “tactical” and “terrorism” sell seats, especially for paid training.  I get that.  I also get that we need to train for events that are unlikely to occur, but have high risk if they do occur.  But for love of Pete, can we stop already with doing training just because it sounds sexy or cool?

If we’re going to train on a mass casualty, how about training on something that’s actually likely to occur in most EMS organizations’ service areas?  A MCI involving a school bus is much more likely to happen than a dirty bomb or an active shooter.  And if you factor in getting the right patients to the right hospitals, the logistics of parental involvement, or even factoring in road closures, this MCI becomes a real (and realistic) challenge.  Besides, if we’re truly following the National Incident Management System and the Incident Command System models as required by FEMA, the type of incident shouldn’t matter.  NIMS and ICS are what we should be using for command and control of any emergency incident.

Meanwhile, EMS providers can’t perform a basic assessment or master the skills associated with their certification level, let alone understand pathophysiology or pharmacology. And we have raised a whole generation of providers who think claims of PTSD and burnout are what constitutes experience.

I get that conferences need to sell to the masses if they’re to remain a going concern. I also know that we’ve got a bigger problem with our profession (or what passes for it) and our personal standards if this is who we’re marketing for. While we have people getting excited over this stuff, we still have all levels of providers clinging to dogma.  We have people still putting patients on backboards.  We have supposed advanced providers thinking all respiratory ailments are treated with an albuterol inhaler.  And let’s not even talk about the people who think that “pasta water” (IE, saline) fixes hypovolemia and scoff at the notion of administering blood products outside the hospital.

Yes, there are public safety aspects to EMS.  I will NEVER deny that.  But we’re also engaged in the clinical practice of medicine.  We need to quit playing at being “operators” and start actually being clinicians.

And truth be told, I know a few actual “operators” in the field of prehospital medicine.  The overwhelming majority of them rarely talk about being operators. They do talk about the medicine — all the time.

Finally, if we think that some more “tacti-cool” scenarios are what’s needed to advance EMS as a profession, that alone is a statement of why EMS is where it is. Not to mention why we’re not advancing and why the salaries are so low.

Back In The Fire Service

Well, I’ve been away from my blog for a while. There are two reasons.  First, I’ve been busy.  Those of you who know me know that I’ve changed one of my volunteer affiliations.  (More on that later.)  Two, I tend to blog when the muses inspire me.  And this afternoon, the inspiration finally hit me.

So, let’s talk about that volunteer position.  Obviously, in keeping with discretion and good sense, I won’t say which department. But what I will say is that they’ve been unlike almost any fire department I’ve seen.  It’s a combination paid/volunteer department that actually welcomes volunteer involvement.  It’s easy to get on the schedule and, by and large, you’ve got the equipment and uniforms to do your job.  They embrace the EMS first response role — to the point of having paramedic level protocols and an active volunteer role for those who want to stay exclusively on the medical side of the department.

Truth is, I’ve probably been one of the bigger critics of the fire service both in terms of its commitment to quality medicine and its love/hate relationship with volunteers.  And I realize that I might’ve found that rare unicorn that’s rumored to exist.

And in EMS, many of us respect certain aspects of the fire service, particularly the perceptions of brotherhood and camaraderie. And we rightfully blame many EMS organizations for a toxic management culture that doesn’t respect clinical competence, that values the bottom line above all else, and where “meets minimum standards” is the gold standard. We also blame an EMS social media culture that appeals to the lowest common denominator of inappropriate humor mocking patients, where patient abuse is funny, and where “book learning” is for the other guy because you “do everything a doctor does at 70 miles an hour.”

And truth be told, I’ve despaired of this culture in EMS as well.  Even though I should know that toxic cultures exist throughout the human experience (and I’ve worked in some toxic legal settings), I let the EMS social media world convince me that this is an EMS problem, not a human or management problem.

Until today.  I just happened to see a post from a firefighter I used to know.  His post was full of braggadocio about “leading and training.”  The fire service seems to be full of these guys.  They’re the fire service version of the lowest common denominator medics on EMS social media. And the truth is that a lot of the firefighters who talk a big game on social media like they’ve got the experience of firefighters in urban departments like Houston, New York City, Chicago, Providence, or Boston are the fire service version of the EMS social media clowns who are career EMTs doing interfacility transfers and dialysis runs. And just like in EMS, there are plenty of lousy managers the fire service and perhaps even more so-called leaders whose only expertise is in self-promotion.

So, what’s the point here?  Namely, it’s not just EMS — every profession and human endeavor has its share of buffoons hogging the attention as well as toxic folks creating an even more toxic culture. If you’re in an organization where you’re valued and the toxicity is minimal, treasure it and do what you can to keep that culture going.  If you’re in the other kind of organization, do what you can to improve things.  If all else fails, do yourself, your career, and your mental health a service and find a better option.

For what it’s worth, the good options in any career, and especially in emergency services, are out there.  You have to look for them.

One final note — the really great organizations rarely have to advertise or promote themselves.  They attract quality and the right people without a hashtag or cute slogan.

Yes, you’re wrong.

Sorry for the interruption in my usual stream of consciousness blogging.  Nothing in particular has been on my mind as of late. (Although I may have to do a post in the near future about finding a potential unicorn.  Namely, a fire department that embraces both volunteers and ALS first response.)

But this morning, I saw a contrast between those who I’d call high speed EMS providers and those who, at best, deserve the title “ambulance driver.”

Example one.  Discussion about the risks and benefits of a particular prehospital intervention.  In this case, it was application of a pelvic binder.  An expert on trauma care provides their opinion and an article that includes citations. Learning and dialogue occur.

Example two. Discussion of prehospital ultrasound on a popular EMS social media page.  Truth be told, I’m still a skeptic on prehospital ultrasound.  I’m not sure what ultrasound can show me that a good patient assessment can AND change my course of care in the prehospital setting. But another EMS provider (and I won’t use the word professional) stated in said discussion, ” I guess when you’re burn out like me, it doesn’t matter any more and you just want to dump the pt in the er. However that’s mine own opinion.”  He then “doubles down on dumb” and goes on to state, “nope it’s my opinion, not ignorance. I jill just don’t care about those devices out in the field. Waste of time and money.”  When he’s challenged on his ignorance, he states, “It’s not an excuse, it’s just how I feel about being burn out. I believe we have differences in opinions and I respect that. I guess opinions are wrong to use. People have different opinions and has nothing to do with education.”

The truth is simple. You can have an opinion. But when your opinion is based upon bad information and beliefs and you refuse to change when given new information, then you are absolutely wrong. And if you’re basing your medicine on bad opinions, then you’re a bad provider.

So long as EMS tolerates those people who refuse to practice good medicine based on current evidence based practice because they “have a different opinion,” we’re going to remain the ambulance drivers.  We won’t be taken as a profession.  And until we step up the standards to be a clinician, regardless of what EMS does for educational standards (which may or may not fix things), we don’t deserve to be called a profession.

You’re entitled to an opinion.  You can be wrong.  But you’re not entitled to harm a patient because you choose to be wrong.  If you are still doing that, that’s why the legal profession exists.

The Degree Advocates

After a few minutes engaging this morning on the American Paramedic Association Facebook page, I’ve realized that many of those advocating higher education and a degree requirement for paramedics have little understanding of higher education or how higher education works.

There’s tons of people saying they need more science classes and advocating for specific EMS related courses. Meanwhile, there’s a lot of people also advocating against any humanities or liberal arts core curriculum coursework. I would submit to you that a course in research design and methodology like you see in many bachelor’s level social science curricula may be of much more long term benefit to EMS than a specific, technical course in the most recent innovation. Remember when backboards and rotating tourniquets were considered current EMS practice? However, a course in understanding research would enable the paramedic to have a lifetime knowledge base in evaluating EMS innovations and a healthy dose of skepticism, which is a virtual requirement for scientists and clinicians.

Many of these people arguing for an EMS degree don’t understand that college is designed to produce a well rounded education, even if the degree is in a specific field. There’s several people saying that the EMS associates degree needs to be a technical degree. What they don’t understand is that an Associate of Applied Science degree is often a terminal degree for a technical job. (Think ITT Tech or DeVry for those of us that remember the commercials on daytime TV.) And further, an AAS degree often doesn’t easily transition to a BS or BA degree in the future, even further limiting EMS career progression and upward mobility.

Bluntly, the more I see, the more I think an AAS degree will end up dooming EMS to remain a technical education with limited chance for upward mobility or further education. What I’m seeing is largely people engaging in either playing pretend at creating their dream college curriculum or wanting to turn card course curriculum into college hours.

I’m almost willing to come on board with requiring a degree for paramedic providers. However, I think we need to aim for the ideal and negotiate to what’s manageable. In my opinion, I believe that the role of a paramedic is actually that of an advanced practitioner with the ability (and likely the requirement) to exercise critical thinking and clinical decision-making. That critical thinking comes with an expanded knowledge base including the core liberal arts curriculum. And that level of education happens at the bachelor’s degree level.

The political process, which is ultimately how we’ll reach a decision on what education is required to be a paramedic, requires that we negotiate from an ideal solution to get to a realistic solution. The ideal is a paramedic with a bachelor’s degree, whether that’s a bachelor’s degree in paramedicine or a bachelor’s degree in another field, followed by a paramedic transition curriculum (see also the plethora of BSN transition programs for those with a BA/BS degree).

If we end up making the paramedic degree requirement an associate of applied science as many seem to be advocating, we’re dooming EMS to remain a technical field with limited upward mobility. An EMS degree, especially for the paramedic level, should not be in the same category as HVAC technicians or diesel mechanics. (Truth is, the average HVAC technician or diesel mechanic probably has a better salary than the average EMS provider — or even many so-called “white collar” jobs.)

As I’ve said before, we’ve got one chance to get the degree requirement right. Let’s not foul this up. And if we turn this into an echo chamber among ourselves and creating a curriculum that’s solely based on “cool new skills” for paramedics, we’re dooming ourselves with a degree requirement that ends up producing perishable skills that will be outdated within a few years of practice.