A proposal to review federal training standards for ambulance attendants has some critics wondering if it’ll cut the number of people willing to volunteer to become Emergency Medical Technicians, or E-M-T’s in rural states like Iowa. Joe Ferrell is education coordinator for the public-health department’s Bureau of Emergency Medical Services. He explains there are different levels of emergency medical service providers in the state, each with its own training curriculum based on national standards. A “first responder,” who gets there immediately before the ambulance arrives, has a limited set of critical, life-saving skills but they’re less complex than those a paramedic will be trained to do. A “scope -of-practice” committee develops a document spelling out what skills an E-M-T “basic” can do, which ones an intermediate or paramedic can perform, since there are several different levels of practice among E-M-T’s working in the state. Ferrell says one goal of reviewing the federal guidelines is to make sure the set of skills used for training is the same everywhere in the country. Right now every state sets its parameters as Iowa has, taking that national curriculum but adding some skills it will require in addition. But he explains that means when someone applies for a job who’s come from some other state gthey can’t just assume they’ve had the same training but have to review it and often put them through additional training to acquire the skills the Iowa professionals are using. Ferrell says in addition to ensuring what training and skills the emergency workers can offer, it will make it easier for professionals who move from one state to another, if their training was done to the same standard. He doesn’t think a review of the standards will make them twice as much work, and not concerned that it might cut the number of people willing to volunteer as E-M-T’s. “I love it,” he says, it’s something he always enjoyed doing and he thinks there are few other jobs as rewarding. A draft document will be available soon for emergency-response managers to look over, and a second version based on their reaction will be written up late this year.
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