Have you been following the recent articles on EMS1.com regarding degrees for paramedics? Dr. David Ross wrote A college degree requirement for paramedics: Is it just B.S.? based around an episode of EMS Garage where the panel discussed degree requirements for paramedics. Dr. Ross believes that there is not sufficient career opportunities, and little benefit to the patient, to having a paramedic with a degree. He is not against higher education, but he sees little return for the time, effort and money.
Art Hsieh, in a rebuttal, posted an article Why a degree is a must for today’s paramedic . I agree with Mr. Hsieh’s point, by the time you graduate from a paramedic program, you have earned 35 to 44 credit hours over two years. Many Associate’s Degree program require 62 to 66 credit hours. The only missing courses are the general education courses. English, math, sociology or psychology.
Why not make the extra effort, get an Associate Degree? You are already 2/3 of the way to a degree. You think general education courses are a waste of your time? English will improve your writing skills (you know a few EMS people who can use some help writing their patient care reports). Math will help you calculate drug dosages. Psych and/or Soc will help you understand the situation, the mental state of the patient and their family. I would also add a Pathophysiology class to the requirements, you will have a much better understanding of disease processes after taking this class.
Australian Paramedics must earn a bachelor’s degree. Canadian Paramedics must earn an associate’s degree. Paramedics in the United Kingdom use to follow a similar system that the U.S. has, working through the ranks (similar to a trade), but now requires a degree to become a new paramedic.
Emergency Medical Services were first pioneered in the United States. In 1966, the Committee on Trauma and Committee on Shock of the National Academy of Sciences, published Accidental Death and Disability” The Neglected Disease of Modern Society known as The White Paper in EMS.
The Highway Safety Act of 1966, included federal funding for training emergency care providers, ones recommended by the white paper.
In 1973, USC Title 42 The Public Safety Act (Chapter 6A, Subchapter X, Part A) , known as The Emergency Medical Services Systems Act was signed in to law. This was a large federally funded effort to create EMS systems in the U.S.
The Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981, effectively ended federal funding of the Emergency Medical Services System. This allowed the states to have greater control over the funding of EMS systems in their jurisdiction.
EMS continued to grow, but funding declined sharply and EMS agencies had to rely on billing for service as the sole means of income. This is the beginning of the stagnation in EMS. Yes, advances in medical treatment eventually trickle down to EMS providers, but we are still doing the same thing we were doing in the 1970s. Injured or ill, we show up, and transport to a hospital for definitive treatment.
Have we really advanced our profession? Where do we go from here? We will start with the Emergency Medical Services Agenda for the Future, published in 1996 by the National Highway Traffic Administration. You have some extracurricular reading to do (there are a lot of hyperlinks in this post. Please take some time to visit the sites and read the information). I’ll address the future of EMS in an upcoming blog post.