Friday Five – Five Classes for EMS Providers

March 9, 2012 § 3 Comments

Okay, so I don’t normally provide too much background on my choice for Friday Fives, but I have to give a bit of a background to this list.  I had the pleasure of having a telephone conversation with what I call an EMS purist. You know them, those people who will only ever ride on an ambulance, only ever concern themselves with EMS stuff, and never understand the need for anything other than EMS. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with that. However, the conversation with this guy made me feel like I’d fallen backwards 10 years in progression fo the system.

This gentleman did not understand why he, an EMS provider, needed to take NIMS training. Ten years after it was put into place, this individual still had not taken any of the NIMS trainings because and I quote “That’s a fire science class and I only run EMS calls”.  Without reaching through the phone and smacking this person, I calmly explained to him that while he may only run EMS calls, he will always work with other members of the emergency services field and that NIMS provides a framework for responding with multiple different agencies. He still didn’t seem to get it, even after I used his own localities recent interaction with state and federal resources as the result of damage from a hurricane.  He didn’t get it when I explained to him that the basics are important and that it actually wasn’t a huge deal because the training is available online, FOR FREE. After finally finishing my phone conversation I was struck by two things:

1.  Some people will just never get it.

2.  There are still EMS providers who believe that the only training they need is first aid based, just as there are probably still fire service members who believe the only training they need is how to put water on the fire.

With those two things in mind, today’s friday five is a list of five classes I believe every EMS provider should have (beyond first aid training), even if they are only riding on a fire truck.

Five Classes for EMS Providers

1.  National Incident Management System (NIMS) – Forget that this is a free course and forget that you don’t even have to get out of your pajamas to take it if you don’t want to. If this course cost and you had to travel, I’d still recommend it. The NIMS training, while not federally mandated, should be made a mandate by agencies for their members. It provides an understanding of the frame-work of response, from the basic to the large-scale incident. It takes out the actual operational efforts and describes the organization fo the efforts and the resources/agencies available. Anyone who might EVER respond to an event should have this training. Check out: for more information

2.  Incident Command Systems (ICS) – While NIMS talks about the ICS structure, the application and implementation of ICS is covered in other. Many of the courses offered are actually specific to the field, so you can take an Incident Command/Operations Course aimed at a target audience of EMS providers. This will provide scenarios that are EMS based and allow you to better understand the fact that you have a role in ICS, even if you only ride on the ambulance.  The National Fire Academy (NFA) offers a wide variety of these courses, and is an experience every emergency services member should have!  Visit for additional information on National Fire Academy courses

3.  Hazardous Materials Awareness – Every EMS provider should take a hazardous materials awareness course. We need to understand how to recognize a haz-mat situation, how to identify a hazardous material (from a distance) and how to look that same hazardous material up in the Emergency Response Guide (ERG) to assist in the treatment of our patients. This is a course that can be taken online and is often taught in person by the state Emergency Management agency or Fire Programs office.

4.  Vehicle Extrication – This is a hard one to explain. Some of you  readers are actually doing extrication off the ambulance. In some jurisdictions though, extrication is a fire department activity (probably in more localities than there are EMS doing extrication). Even if you never place your hands on a spreader, cutter, ram, etc, you need to understand the process of extrication. Extrication is a patient care driven issue (that’s another argument I could write about). We wouldn’t be doing extrication if there wasn’t a patient in the car. An EMS provider with an understanding of the process of vehicle extrication can be prepared for the impacts on the patient, understand the time issues associated with different techniques, and use their knowledge to provide information to the patient (if conscious) about what the extrication team is doing.

5. Critical Incident Stress Management – This training, whether through International Critical Incident Stress Foundation (ICISF), the Red Cross, or some other agency, provides not only the ability to help others deal with the impacts of the job, but also provides a foundation for recognizing when you are personally impacted as well. We focus so much on the reactive approach (treating things AFTER they happen). If we could provide this training, or even a simpler form, we may be able to PREVENT individuals from being impacted emotionally/mentally by a critical incident.

So, those are the trainings (beyond first aid) that I truly believe EVERY EMS provider should have. You may or may not agree with me, but I think we can all agree, that the training is out there and we should definitely take advantage of it. Why would you not want to be the best provider you can be?

Do you have any classes you would add to this list?  Feel free to share your thoughts here or on twitter!

Until next time, stay safe and don’t forget to follow on twitter (@stickysidedwn)


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§ 3 Responses to Friday Five – Five Classes for EMS Providers

  • Jen Swab says:

    Since no one in public safety ever really works a 5 day week (presuming that’s what the Friday Five refers to), let’s shift it to a Saturday Six just for the purposes of my reply. I don’t want to mess with something that isn’t broken but could not figure out a way to add some jocularity to my lead in.

    The sixth class that I would like to propose all EMS Providers take is some form of a rehab. class. Having 30 years experience in EMS, with some of those in the middle as a FF too, I can honestly say that some of the ideas I had when I first started are becoming standard in the industry.

    For example, even in my humble beginnings in the early 1908’s I always felt that EMS Providers should have an awareness of vehicle extrication. I remember having to prove my argument to my Chief to obtain his permission to attend a vehicle extrication class that had a capped attendance and only a select few could attend. I told him that as a Paramedic, if I had to take care of the people in the vehicle, I needed first to know how to get to them. It wasn’t much of a battle because he was a fantastic Chief, but I won and it was one of the best classes I have ever taken.

    Back to the sixth class: Rehab. That was another argument I would have with my fellow bunkmates prior to me becoming a FF. I never understood why the ambulance wasn’t dispatched to all fire calls. People would argue with me that there were no injuries and I used to scream that I wasn’t going solely for the injured public, but rather for the FF as they perform their dangerous work. Eventually I won but then was hit with another battle. I never wanted to leave until the last truck pulled away. My fellow medic peers saw it fitting to leave as soon as the fire was declared out and overhaul began. I did not have much of an understanding at the time, but know now that overhaul is often times more dangerous than the working fire. And so again, I was fighting the battle. How ironic it is to me that rehab. has become a large component of our profession.

    All EMS providers should take a rehab. class. There is a lot to know and understand about what people do to their bodies during extremes such as firefighting and hazardous materials incidents. That whole ‘First Do No Harm’ includes: US.

    Thank you for providing this blog and an avenue to comment. I appreciate your dedication. Be safe out there.


    • EMS says:

      Jen – I definitely agree with the need for rehab training. I am a huge proponent of training EMS providers to set up appropriate rehab, and reminding firefighters that they have to give their body time to recover before going back in. I’m actually teaching a class on rehab at FDIC this year and have taught rehab classes at other conferences as well. Great point!

  • Jen Swab says:

    Upon proofing, Make that 1980’s!

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