Self assessment: Tracking your progress in EMT class

It's important to periodically ask yourself a series of questions to assess your own performance as you strive to become an EMS professional

Students who started EMT class last month are probably about a quarter of the way through their classroom training. If you're one of those students, do you have a sense for where you stand and if you are on the path to success?

Ideally, you are receiving timely, regular, and actionable feedback from your primary instructor through homework assignments and unit exams. Also, you should be receiving verbal feedback from lab instructors as you learn, practice, and test-out on practical skills and patient assessment scenarios.

While feedback from instructors is expected and helpful for knowing if you are going to pass EMT class, there are also some questions you can ask yourself to assess your own performance as you strive to become an EMS professional.

Action Orientation

As an EMT, patients, bystanders, and other emergency responders will look to you to take action at emergency scenes by identifying hazards, directing others, and beginning to care for the sick and injured. EMTs are action oriented. In EMT class do you:

  • Volunteer to help your instructor demonstrate a new skill?
  • Offer to be a patient so your classmates can practice assessment?
  • Clean up the lab and equipment without waiting to be asked?
  • Have the basic tools of our profession (gloves, stethoscope, watch, pen, paper and smartphone) close at hand?
  • Use downtime while waiting for formal practice stations to read, review course materials, or set-up informal practice stations with your peers?

Professional Appearance

EMTs are identifiable on scene because of their uniform and stature. As an EMT student do you:

  • Wear the official class uniform and work boots or shoes?
  • If there is not a class uniform, wear non-jean slacks or technical pants and a collared shirt?
  • Arrive at class showered, clean shaven, with your hair pulled back, and with minimal exposed tattoos and piercings?
  • Practice excellent hand washing etiquette before and after patient assessment practice, eating, coughing or sneezing, or smoking?
  • Care for yourself outside of class with regular exercise, a healthy diet, adequate sleep, and no tobacco use?

EMT Class Leadership

EMS professionals work in a highly decentralized workplace where they are expected to lead their peers, other emergency responders, patients, and bystanders during stressful and sometimes chaotic situations. As a developing EMS leader do you:

  • Know the names and some basic personal information about each of your classmates?
  • Arrive at the start of class and return from breaks on time and ready to learn?
  • Organize a group to practice patient assessment scenarios?
  • Offer to help a classmate that is falling behind or struggling?

Knowledge Acquisition

Coursework is necessary to pass EMT class, but it is just the beginning of your EMS education. The information in your book and lectures is the minimum starting knowledge. As an EMS scholar, do you:

  • Read each textbook chapter by the assigned date?
  • Complete all assignments on time and with an above-average score?
  • Seek out additional information about lecture topics on EMS websites, podcasts, and blogs?
  • Ask at least one question during every lecture?
  • Interview other EMS professionals about their field experiences, tips for success, and resource suggestions to continue your own learning?

If you answered no to more than a few of these questions, step back and ask if EMS is really where you want to be. If it is, pick one or two areas to start working on, because excellence as an EMS professional is attainable only if you are determined.

If you answered yes to all or most of these questions, then I believe you are on the path to success as an EMS professional. You probably have the admiration of your instructors, but don't rest or pull back. Instead, push forward.

How else can you assess your progress during EMT class? Share your ideas in the comments section.

This article, originally published on Oct. 6, 2011, has been updated

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