Lessons to be learned from Mass. certification scandal

Editor’s Note:

Editor's note: Six fire officers involved in the Mass. EMT recertification scandal cut deals to save their jobs this week. The punishment includes a mix of demotions, unpaid suspensions, work-for-free punishment duty and financial restitution. Editorial Advisor Art Hsieh says now that this sad chapter in the history of EMS is coming to a close, is there anything we can learn from it?

It appears that this sad chapter in the history of EMS is coming to a close, with several EMS providers receiving stiff penalties for their role in the certification scandal. In a previous commentary I mentioned that the recertification process, while not perfect, is currently the acceptable way to validate that one is competent and capable of providing professional emergency medical care to the public.

Knowingly circumventing the process implies at the very least, poor judgment and at worst, a conscious effort to ignore what's right and perform a selfish act that shakes the public's trust in its homeland responders.

I think that there are a couple of lessons to be learned:

1) Despite having what I just said, why is it that over 200 Massachusetts EMS providers chose to falsify their recertification?

Yes, the opportunity provided itself, but usually there are other factors that drive normally ethical people to step over the line. Is it extraordinarily difficult to go through the process?

Are the refresher classes boring and devoid of any meaningful information? Is there enough availability of refresher classes? Are they very expensive? None of these potential reasons are good enough to condone illegal behavior, but that doesn't mean we couldn't work to reduce the barriers to recertification in a meaningful way.

2) It's tempting to perform an act that gets you something valuable without putting in the effort. We come across these situations in our daily lives — some of them trivial, others more serious.

If it only affected us as individuals, that might be one thing. But in situations like this one, where whole communities may be affected, it becomes painfully clear that someone will care about what you do — and not in a supportive way.

About the author

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 Art.Hsieh@ems1.com and connect with him on Facebook or Twitter.

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