EMS NOW - a weekly highlight of emergency medical servicesEMS NOW: The Future of EMS
By Matt Comer, EMTP
How does your agency/department select, train, and maintain its field training officers (FTOs)? If your agency is anything like the ones I have worked for over the years, the process probably goes something like; “Hey you’re a good EMT or Paramedic , you’re going to be an FTO.” FTOs are typically then sent out with little to no direction or continued education. Unfortunately, this has been the model for FTO programs throughout EMS over the years. In order to produce better EMTs and paramedics in the future we have to shift our model to view FTOs as educators."... if we hope to have a cutting edge provider as the future of EMS we need cutting edge clinical educators now..."
As mentioned, typically the selection process for choosing FTOs has been picking our best EMTs / Paramedics. This selection process is based on the quality of the provider’s clinical care and perhaps whether or not they are a friendly person. The selection process often does not take into account the future FTOs teaching style, personality type, or perhaps most importantly their passion to teach. As EMS leaders looking to further our profession we must create a more comprehensive FTO selection process. EMS leaders should place a strong emphasis on a provider’s passion to teach and become a FTO. The future FTO will have to balance being a solid provider, a constant learner, as well as a passionate and skilled clinical educator. The future FTO will become more than a trainer, they must become educators.
What is an educator? According to Merriam-Webster it is: one trained in teaching, a specialist in the theory and practice of education. “One trained in teaching”, that assumes some type of training specific to the science / art of teaching. Rarely do FTOs receive any training on how to teach and may not ever receive any such training. EMS training departments must develop and implement a comprehensive FTO training program in which the EMT/Paramedic can make the transition from clinician to clinical educator. Our future FTOs are already experts in their field we must make them specialists in the theory and practice of education. An additional challenge faces the FTO and that is being an effective clinical educator. Over and above being an educator the clinical educator must teach their students in the clinical environment which offers many challenges. The primary challenge we must prepare the new FTO for is how to balance appropriately treating their patients while allowing for a rich learning environment for the student.
So what does this new FTO program look like? It begins with recruiting, seeking out, and selecting solid providers who are passionate about teaching. Providers must be solid in their own practice as much of the additional training they receive will be on the theory and practice of clinical education. The provider should be passionate about teaching as they now have to commit much of their time to teaching, guiding and mentoring students. An FTO program must now offer initial and ongoing training on how to become and improve as a clinical instructor. The program must place a strong emphasis on the education of the FTOs. FTOs should be offered consistent and regular educational opportunities which give them a greater knowledge base not only as providers, but as educators.
The logic is fairly simple; if we hope to have a cutting edge provider as the future of EMS we need cutting edge clinical educators now.