Thursday, March 20, 2014

An Open Letter on Degrees

For some time now, the EMS profession has been looking for a clear leader to emerge. We have been waiting for someone to lead us boldly into the future. Currently, the EMS field is at a crossroads. We are DESPERATELY in need of a degree requirement to help us survive and stay relevant in the ever changing and highly competitive healthcare field. It is well documented that those who possess a college degree enjoy benefits that extend well beyond the simple possession of information as a result of education. As evidenced by the increasingly complex nature of the biomedical sciences, a firm educational foundation is key to providing the best care possible. Learning the skills necessary to stay current and continue to learn throughout a career is part of the value of a college degree. The role of EMS has shifted since its inception in the 1970s toward that of an independent prehospital healthcare practitioner. In order to avoid being left behind the wave of change, EMS professionals must rise to the occasion. We would like to see you and / or other national level EMS advocacy groups visibly and rigorously support a degree based paramedic education. I and a growing number of other EMS providers hold the opinion that our field could easily transition to a degree based field through the following method;
Require all new paramedics to hold an Associate in Science degree.
This requirement would allow for a transition to a degree based model while not threatening the livelihood of current paramedics. Based on the past experience of the ANA, we can surmise that the most vocal critics of a degree requirement will be those current paramedics whose ability to practice would be threatened. Making this degree requirement pertain to future paramedics, and not requiring current paramedic to return to college to remain practicing EMS providers should avoid most grass roots opposition. This model would also allow for the continued use of EMTs by fire departments and volunteer agencies since it would not effect the EMT level provider. Furthermore, an associate level degree requirement would allow for the hundreds of community colleges currently providing paramedic education to retain their programs. Happily, since requiring A.S. level degree education requires more college classes for these prospective paramedics, community colleges should welcome this potential increase in tuition funds.
As with any change in EMS, there will be critics. There will be those who argue against change no matter how much they ultimately benefit from it. I and many of my colleagues stand ready to support you and your organization as you look toward the future. We believe that we cannot, as a field, be successful in the future without being on the same level as other healthcare professions. We cannot expect to thrive and even expand into community paramedicine or mobile integrated healthcare without paramedic leaders who possess the same tools and skills as those with whom they work. We cannot be successful without being a degree based profession. We need you to lead.
The EMS Profession

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