‘Realistic’ EMS training must avoid real danger

When training sessions are thrown together without much thought, it puts student safety at risk


“Train as you work; work as you train.”

If you subscribe to that philosophy, then you know that safety is a major concern in the training arena. Given the number of injuries that EMS workers sustain while on the job, it’s essential that good safety practices are instilled at every training opportunity.

That would have been wise advice to follow in the case of an EMS instructor who set off a CO2 grenade and blew out the eardrum of an EMT student. While I understand why the instructor used an explosive device to create a more realistic scenario, it’s how he used it that makes my educator bones shiver.

For one, it’s clear the student was too close at the time of detonation. Was there a safety officer on site? Was the detonation in a closed room, amplifying the concussion? More importantly, was this done routinely during this lesson, and this is the first time there’s been an injury?

Regardless of what discipline the instructor receives, I’m hoping that a serious debriefing of the situation will identify any major system issues that allowed this to happen in the first place. 

Unfortunately, too many instructors and providers don’t take training seriously. Training sessions are often trivialized and thrown together without much preparation or thought. It sends a message that what we do isn’t important.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Be it better chest compressions, the accurate placement of a needles during an emergency cricothyrotomy, or the empathetic manner we display to reassure a patient, what we do matters in both big and small ways. 

Keeping students safe is one lesson the training community needs to make sure it learns.

About the author

EMS1 Editorial Advisor Art Hsieh, MA, NREMT-P currently teaches at the Public Safety Training Center, Santa Rosa Junior College in the Emergency Care Program. Since 1982, Art has worked as a line medic and chief officer in the private, third service and fire-based EMS. He has directed both primary and EMS continuing education programs. Art is a textbook author, has presented at conferences nationwide, and continues to provide patient care at an EMS service in Northern California. Contact Art at Art.Hsieh@ems1.com.

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