CASES IN BLS CARE
New EMTs should consider advancing their education & career
By Dennis Edgerly, MEd, EMT-P
Congratulations! You’re a nationally registered EMT. You passed your EMT class, passed the EMT skill
exam and then the National Registry of
EMTs (NREMT) written exam. You can
now apply for your state certification and
begin working as an EMT.
But … then what?
First, remember that the NREMT
exam measures minimum competence. This means passing the exam
identifies the provider as being minimally competent to care for patients
at their certification level. Passing
the exam is a great milestone but
shouldn’t be considered your ultimate hurdle. There’s a lot more about
your profession to be learned.
To maintain your certification—
and thus your ability to continue
working as an EMT—you’ll need to periodically take classes. There’s a defined number of hours required in specific topic areas
(e.g., trauma, medical, etc.) that must be
completed to be eligible for recertification.
Classes can be continuing education
(CE) classes or refresher classes. Although
there’s some variability based on your state
and agency policy, these two rectification
options are a bit different.
A refresher class will cover the required
topics and is designed to refresh your knowledge, typically reviewing content you’ve
CE is more commonly designed to learn
new things and advancing your current
knowledge. As the name suggest, you’re continuing your education rather than refreshing
what you previously learned. In other words,
you’re going to learn more than what you
learned in your initial EMT class.
Prehospital medicine is rapidly chang-
ing, and CE offers you the opportunity to
learn about the new procedures, new prac-
tices and new equipment being applied to
The out-of-hospital patient care provided
today is far different from the care provided
just 10 years ago. EMS professionals must
stay current with these changes, and you
should focus your time during the recertification period on learning what’s new and
what’s best practice in patient care.
CAREER PATH OPTIONS
Considering going to paramedic school?
Look at your options closely and do some
research on the schools in your area. Ask
schools about their NREMT pass rates—
remember NREMT certifies at the minimum
competent level. Select a paramedic school
where graduates routinely pass and that also
have a path to college credit. Ask about how
difficult that path to credit is to navigate.
You should enter paramedic school strongly
considering to obtain an undergraduate degree
and not just certification.
Even if you’re not considering going to
paramedic school, you should consider taking
classes that advance your medical knowledge.
Even if your scope of practice doesn’t change,
your enhanced understanding of diseases and
treatments will benefit your patients.
Think about the future: Do you want to
promote within your fire department or EMS
agency? Do you want to teach? Many teach-
ing and education positions in EMS now
require some form of formal degree. Per-
haps your future plans include obtaining a
management or education degree.
EMS is only about 50 years old, which is
a short time when you compare it to physicians and nursing.
Nursing started with certificate programs. Schools then began
offering associate degrees in nursing and now are offering Bachelor
of Science in nursing degrees, which
are required by many hospitals for
nurses seeking employment. Nurses
can even pursue a master’s or doctorate degree.
If EMS is to continue to mature
as a profession we should look to follow a similar course. Many of today’s
successful EMS leaders complete
master’s and doctorate degrees, often in the
area of management or teaching.
Retaking the same classes and relearning the
same information does little for personal and
EMS is reaching a sort of adolescent phase
as compared to other longer established
medical disciplines which have grown and
developed into degreed professions. We’ll
likely see EMS-focused advanced degree
programs soon, probably in management
You can take your career in several different directions. Consider your path, and consider what you want from your career. JEMS
Dennis Edgerly, MEd, EMT-P, began his
EMS career in 1987 and is currently the EMS
academy director for Arapahoe Community
College in Littleton, Colo. Contact him at
Retaking the same classes
& relearning the same
little for personal &