EMS Education – A Look Forward

I have always believed EMS parallels the career trajectory of nursing. This is especially true when you look at the infancy of nursing—1750 to 1893—in what was a subservient apprenticeship with no didactic education. “Most nurses working in the States received on-the-job training in hospital diploma schools. Nursing students initially were unpaid, giving hospitals a source of free labor. This created what many nurse historians and policy analysts see as a system that continues to undervalue nursing’s contribution to acute care.” (History Lesson: Nursing Education has evolved over the decades, 2012, para. 5).

We reached a turning point in 1893 when the Columbian Exposition met, and although Ms. Florence Nightingale was unavailable to attend, she did have a paper presented at the exposition. In essence, the paper proved that a well-educated nursing workforce with standards of practice was needed to improve the health care of the United States.

This is exactly where EMS is now. Young enough to have moved through our growing pains of the late ’60s and early ’70s, but lucky enough to be in an age of extensive medical growth where all levels of providers are looking to enhance the care being provided.

So where do we go from here? We can choose to keep the status quo or we can move forward, hopefully, at a much greater speed than our nursing brothers and sisters. We should consider moving away from being governed by the Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. A much more appropriate body is the Department of Health, which gives us the ability to stop thinking of our discipline as transport to the hospital, and more like bringing a hospital-like service to the to the sick and injured.

“EMS is a critical component of the nation’s healthcare system. Indeed, regardless of where they live, work or travel, people across the US rely on a sufficient, stable and well-trained workforce of EMS providers for help in everyday emergencies, large-scale incidents and natural disasters alike.” (“Education,” 2015, para. 1)

To get there, our education needs to reflect growth, and evidence-based medicine should be the law of the land. If this is proven to be effective, then let’s adopt it. If not, let’s stop teaching the worthless skills of yesterday, just as we have seen with the near extinction of the Long Spine Board. Let’s increase the minimum requirements for every level of provider. Let’s give Paramedics an associate’s degree, a diagnosis’s language, and a licensure, not a certification. Let’s all take the reins of our chosen career paths and have better continuing education that is challenging and accessible, and not an alphabet soup of certifications.

Yes, these are my musings about the future of EMS education. I know places that are very progressive in this country exist. I know there are protocol driven areas too. So let’s stop the segregation and become a health care group with a real mission, an everyday purpose. A place where we act as a group, not as individuals. A place where we treat our patients with the skill, compassion, and talent I know exists. Are you ready to join me?

Scott F. McConnell is Vice President of EMS Education for OnCourse Learning and one of the Founders of Distance CME. Since its inception in 2010, more than 10,000 learners worldwide have relied on Distance CME to recertify their credentials. Scott is a true believer in sharing not only his perspectives and experiences but also those of other providers in educational settings


Education. (2015). Retrieved from https://www.ems.gov/education.html

History Lesson: Nursing Education has evolved over the decades. (2012, November 12th, 2012). History Lesson: Nursing Education has evolved over the decades Blog post. Retrieved from https://www.nurse.com/blog/2012/11/12/history-lesson-nursing-education-has-evolved-over-the-decades-


Scott McConnell

Scott McConnell, RN, CEN, PHRN, NRP, is the co-founder of Distance CME by OnCourse Learning and an EMS instructor.

Stay In Touch!

By signing up, you agree to the AAA Privacy Policy & Terms of Use

PO Box 96503 #72319
Washington, DC 20090-6503

Customer Service

Email hello@ambulance.org to open a support ticket for friendly assistance!

Media Inquiries

media@ambulance.org (Press only, please.)

© 2023 American Ambulance Association, Inc.