Making the Most of Online EMS Recertification Opportunities

COVID-19 has affected public safety in innumerable ways—and its impact on the field’s ability to safely provide in-person vocational training has been a growing concern. In some cases, agencies and overseeing governments have been forced to institute emergency plans to temporarily suspend certain licensing and POST requirements to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. In others, a lack of willing and available people may make it difficult for the organization to justify the expense of full-blown training exercises, given the need to pack students to make up for overhead.

Still, the EMS industry is adapting to the significant change it has seen. One major change is that the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians—a certifying agency “covering prehospital medical providers”—has removed in-person training hour requirements for EMS in response to the changing public health climate. The move, which will last through at least the “2021 certification season,” per an agency press release, will in essence allow existing EMS personnel to complete all recertification activity online.

The move couldn’t have come at a better time for the struggling EMS industry, which has naturally served as a focal point of service during the pandemic and suffered disproportionate losses to the virus as a result. Every EMS organization has its people at heart, and wants to keep them as safe as a dangerous job allows in the face of an unprecedented pandemic. Here’s what institutions like yours can do to follow through on this promise now that the National Registry has authorized the shift to online training.

Get the most out of online training by updating your infrastructure and tools

In some sense, readers can take the lack of in-person requirements as a solid endorsement of online training practices. This type of training has seen exponential advancement in terms of technology and capability over the past decade. It can shift an organization’s educational outlook in the wake of the pandemic by reaching a larger number of first responders with learning that fits even the most unpredictable EMS schedule.

However, organizations lacking tools capable of facilitating their education plans will naturally lag behind those with pieces in place strong enough to carry this new standard in EMS.  

Luckily, getting to the point where your organization can support this activity is easier than it’s ever been. Where online learning in the pre-cloud world largely relied on manual installation, maintenance, and upgrading—with local IT teams physically loading hardware onto servers or individual learning stations—today’s tools allow a much more streamlined approach. Depending on your organization’s IT skill, technical infrastructure, and budget, all you need (in many cases) is an internet connection and an agreement with the online training vendor of your choice to get started.

Beyond cost and effort, this also speaks to the speed of installation—when you have a year to recertify online, you don’t want to spend months getting your technology in the right shape to handle your learning plans. Go with a vendor that can suit whatever capability you have but also easily adapt to your changing needs.

How does integration look for you?

Whether or not your department has a learning management system (LMS) capable of handling the National Registry’s change in standards, it is also critical to understand just how your training practices will change for the 2021 certification season and beyond. Chances are, your current mix of tools, technologies, and practices are hybridized, with some modules presented via computer, some presented on-site with local staff, and others yet offered to your personnel by outside agencies (e.g., CPR recertification held at local community colleges or health centers). Ideally, all of these will shift toward a cloud-based learning model.

One important point of this process: figuring out how your in-person recertification modules—both internal and vendor provided—might translate to the virtual learning environment.

With this need for workable tools, an LMS with the ability to push custom content directly to personnel in multiple formats can be of immense use. Consider a department that, as above, uses a blend of in-person and online learning tools (including audioconference bridges, computers, and coursework) to recertify. Following the National Registry announcement, this organization has decided to move the brunt of its recertification work online. Consider their trajectory with and without an LMS:

  • Without an LMS, the department will very likely struggle to master the changing landscape. A trusted local medical education vendor, for instance, may have online tools that support distance learning but no real way to do live, in-person training using the department’s aging conference system.
  • With an LMS, things are far more workable. The department can implement its vendor’s video training modules (which are recorded, posted within the LMS, and knowledge-checked with a follow-up test); convert its in-person recertification modules to custom online courses; and provide “live” training via live-stream chat similar to a Zoom call, but hosted in-system and more integrated with other learning activity—all within the same, singularly integrated system.

It’s a big difference, and one many EMS organizations could stand to achieve with some relatively small changes to the technology stack.

Make the most of this online learning opportunity

For the majority of public safety organizations, dealing with COVID-19 has been a game of adaption. By changing recertification rules for at least the 2021 season, the National Registry has given EMS departments and organizations a chance to make the most of a vexing, tragic change on the public health horizon.

Don’t be afraid to make the changes that would allow you to maximize your benefit from this change. While switching systems and upgrading can seem like a big task from the front end, we make it easy to get moving in the right direction. Reach out to see what a top-tier training and compliance system can do for your EMS organization.

Posted on Mar 16, 2021