Yesterday was day two of the ICE Spring Break Conference for me, and I’m continuing to learn all kinds of new information. For instance, I learned that after the lectures have wrapped up on a particular conference day, many participants attempt to drink the Anheuser-Busch Company out of business. This was all reported to me after the fact, though. Like any good clinical educator, I was back in my room memorizing protocols and asleep by 9:00 pm. Yep, that’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.
Potentially the worst picture ever taken of Rommie Duckworth ended up in the conference brochure next to his bio.
The Nature of Emergency Services: A Beekeeper’s Perspective
Perhaps not everyone left the pre-con to study protocols the night before Rommie’s early morning opening lecture. Easily half of those present were sleepwalkers, but had somehow managed to get dressed. Rommie definitely woke them up. His presentation style is 70% solid info & tactics, 30% humor, and 10% atomic-level energy. Don’t question the math, just go with it.
He has been an emergency services lecturer since 1992, so he knows how to work a crowd. Rommie shared with the crowd all the parallels between EMS and his favorite hobby: beekeeping. He claims, “The parallels between the work of a beehive and the work of emergency services are astounding. Bees have an organization with an overall goal that is achieved by selfless individuals each with a specific job to do. As in emergency services, every beehive has rank and structure, discipline and seniority, leadership and field work, all pulling together for the community.”
Let me offer up to Missouri a better picture of Rommie Duckworth (right).
I was more than a little skeptical when I read the conference brochure, but he made a lot of great points. Among them were…
- Bees can make honey out of all kinds of stuff. We have to do that to make EMS work in our local areas, too. Whether we are municipal, private, fire-based, or flight; we have to learn to deliver the same product given a variety of environments.
- Beehives may look the same, but they aren’t created equal. Although identical (like many ambulances and stations), some hives are high-performers and others are nearly dormant. EMS agencies can’t be judged solely on seeing ambulances/employees roll in and out of the station.
- Honey bees are the perfect employees. They wake up ready to work, always meet the dress code, clean up after themselves, bring the right tools, etc. They don’t get upset about bees in another hive or policies in their own hive. They have a singular job and they do it well.
Cleverly woven into the energy and humor, Rommie made many other points about serving and leading in EMS. His unique off-topic approach drew the audience’s attention, too. He probably did not set out to learn beekeeping in order to prepare this lecture. At least I hope he didn’t, because that would be possibly the lowest imaginable return on investment. Rommie simply found a novel way to blend profession and pastime. I would love to do the same, but I’m drawing a blank on analogies between EMS and my new pastime… going bald.
The morning sessions were abruptly adjourned when smoke came billowing out of a vent in one of the rooms. I'm also told that three different instructors gave separate versions of "The Art of Reading Smoke" after evacuating the building.
The Art of Being Preceptor
Linda was a science teacher before coming into EMS, so I was really looking forward to hearing her views on EMS education and precepting. She immediately caught my attention by encouraging us to drop the term “preceptor” and turn to the term “mentor.” She believes that the latter helps convey the relationship that should be cultivated between the student and the training officer. I couldn’t agree more!
She also stressed that the core qualities of a preceptor are integrity, patience, and BEEEEP, BEEEEP, BEEEEP!!! No, Linda didn’t launch into a list of expletives. The fire alarm went off and the building was evacuated! Seriously, I can’t make this stuff up, people!
Blogger’s Note: For my FTO peeps, I highly recommend the book Field Training Officer: Tips and Techniques by Nepon & Eberly.¹
Dr. David Tan, MD, FAAEM
Cultivating Your Agency’s Medical Director
Dr. David Tan, MD, FAAEM
Dr. Tan was recently elected to the Board of Directors of the National Association of EMS Physicians, so when he speaks people listen. His topic was perfect for those services with part-time Medical Directors who are only able to make it into the office occasionally. Obviously my math and guesstimation abilities suck eggs, but I’m pretty sure 99% of our Medical Directors fit that bill.
He advised, “Many agencies see the value in having a dedicated individual in charge of overseeing medical operations. Most progressive agencies will appoint an EMS Lieutenant, EMS Captain, Chief Medical Officer (CMO), or similar designation to oversee Quality Assurance and to work directly with their Medical Director. However, the process in selecting these individuals is highly variable, and the individuals themselves often have no formal training or qualification other than ‘senior paramedic’ on a crew.” Dr. Tan shared a list of best practices to consider when promoting your next CMO.
Dr. Tan discouraged the audience from promoting the "Cpt. Kirk Paramedics" in their agency into CMO positions, as they tend to clash with Medical Directors. On the flip side, their teleporters tend to give them the best transport times.
Additionally, he gave a list of issues of which CMO’s must be well aware…
- Controlled Substances Act. Do you know all the forms required for tracking your narcotics and how your regional DEA agent wants them filled out?
- Nationwide Drug Shortages. Understand the Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API) quality concerns and manufacturing profitability issues that drive the shortage. Have a plan for your agency.
- Continuing Education. Many agencies require NO direct laryngoscopies of their paramedics before saying, “Here’s your bag of drugs and sharp instruments!” How about yours?
- Annual Skills Testing / Crew Competency. Make no assumptions regarding provider competencies.
- QA and CQI. Know the difference between Quality Assurance and Continuous Quality Improvement. Know the importance of feedback to the providers. You need to PDCA; plan, do, check, act (also known as the Deming Cycle).
For those veteran CMO’s he advised getting professional credentialing endorsed by the National EMS Management Association and the International Association of Fire Chiefs EMS Section.
Dennis is currently the paramedic education coordinator at HealthONE EMS and a bi-monthly columnist for JEMS online. His delivery style if very engaging and the presentation was primarily focused on initial EMS education. He encouraged the use of computers and mobile devices in the classroom for their quick-search abilities, but acknowledged that students are probably using them to talk to each other. This made me feel far less guilty for sitting on the front row and using three different mobile devices!
Though I don’t provide initial education, I still gleaned some nuggets of wisdom from Dennis. Make sure that all your handouts are updated. It’s funny how often people will remember the wrong/outdated information you forgot to take out. Likewise for skill demonstrations. Take the time to produce an accurate skills video that can be used for consistent instruction. Experiment with your classroom setup. Don’t be afraid to deviate from the traditional lecture hall arrangement of tables and chairs.
Example of the "Pod Setup."
My favorite part of his presentation was an exploration of a quote from Chris Le Baudour. He shares this on the first day of class and though it’s not an exact quotation, the gist is, “Questions are not allowed in class… (long pause for effect)… until you’ve asked two classmates and consulted one reference source on your own.” I would bet half of my readers just fell out of their chairs. Most simply fell asleep from reading this drivel, but a few were violently shaken by the idea of students not coming to the instructor for information (commonly known as “Shaken Reader Syndrome”). The concept of encouraging our students to look elsewhere for information may initially give us heartburn, but think about it in the context of field work. Once students get their boots on the streets, they’ll be encountering far more issues that require team learning. Let’s get them used to doing it now.
Tim Bobbitt with a few of his great classroom innovations; EMS Pong, free pig lungs, and a simulation manikin alternative.
Pimp My Classroom
Tim Bobbitt is a fresh new face on the conference circuit in our area. He started his EMS career in 2003 and is currently working for St. Charles County Ambulance District as an Assistant Supervisor, Primary EMT Instructor and Paramedic Adjunct. In his free time (not a term with which I’m familiar), he is also an independent item writer, editor, and contributor for Elsevier.
This interactive class was all about sharing “outside of the box” ideas used for the classroom. Tim’s presentation was over an hour of nonstop genius, and I wish I would have had the presence of mind to record it. Here are just a few of his “pimp my classroom” tactics:
- The manikins you see in the mall can often be found on the cheap if you’re willing to do some hunting store-to-store or search on Craigslist.
- If you don’t have $2-3K in your budget to drop on a Smart Board, you can use simple technology to do the same thing with any projector and screen. Check out this great TED Talk on the subject.
- Idea Paint at Lowe’s. This will turn any surface into a dry erase board.
- Your local butcher probably throws away a lot of stuff that could be used for comparative anatomy or airway labs. Pig lungs (or any other organ, for that matter) are often free for those who simply ask nicely.
This Wordle was produced by simply typing in the URL of my blog.
- Harness your students’ skills at beer pong for something educational. “EMS Pong” can be played in the classroom with similar rules and test review questions in each cup.
- Think your PowerPoint tricks are amazing? Chances are good that many have already seen them done. Prezi is a more affordable presentation format that offers an immersion feel for your audience.
- Tired of the same old topic posters or flashcards? Add some contemporary design to your teaching using Wordle.
- Zygote Body is an amazing website for teaching human anatomy.
- Trainer’s Warehouse is a great place for purchasing instructional aids.
- Here are a ton of ECG teaching resources.
Tim also has his own website where you can see the other cool stuff he does. He’s definitely a guy to watch over the next few years, and I hope I can get him to start blogging or podcasting to share more of these ideas (hint, hint, Tim).
1. Nepon, Bruce, and Barry Eberly. Field Training Officer: Tips and Techniques for FTOs, Preceptors, and Mentors. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett, 2008.