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Importance of detection and just in time training on the street drug du jour

High-performing EMS systems need to ensure their personnel are ready for spikes of unusual presentations from trending recreational drugs

Spikes of unusual presentation cases occurs regularly in all EMS systems, especially when it comes to the recreational use of drugs. Cocaine, crack, methamphetamine, GHB, synthetic marijuana, bath salts, K2, flakka - each has had its moment in the public limelight. Yet long after the spotlight fades, EMS providers continue to deal with patients who suffer the adverse effects of the drugs, for days, weeks or even months afterwards.

More importantly, this news article points out the need for EMS providers to maintain currency in clinical knowledge. It’s fairly easy to rest on one’s educational laurels once leaving the training program; more times than not I’ve heard EMS practitioners groan when they have to attend a continuing education course, or a refresher course. This might be because they are choosing to attend courses that simply repeat what’s already known rather than going out and seeking the courses that give relevant, contemporary information.

On the other hand, operation and clinical managers must stay vigilant in detecting these trends and putting out “just in time” training bulletins to fill in gaps of knowledge, especially when dealing with new, unfamiliar presentations. Support personnel must be able to provide the right equipment and training to use that equipment effectively.

No doubt this issue will pass, but the lesson is the same - always be ready to respond to the unusual as well as the routine. It keeps a high-performing system moving forward.

Art Hsieh, MA, NRP teaches in Northern California at the Public Safety Training Center, Santa Rosa Junior College in the Emergency Care Program. An EMS provider since 1982, Art has served as a line medic, supervisor 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 writer, author of “EMT Exam for Dummies,” has presented at conferences nationwide and continues to provide direct patient care regularly. Art is a member of the EMS1 Editorial Advisory Board. Contact Art at and connect with him on Facebook or Twitter.