EMS educators: 5 steps to prepare for the 2015 AHA updates

Training officers and educators need to begin preparing education materials and curriculum for revisions due to the ECC and CPR updates


The 2015 American Heart Association (AHA) guidelines are scheduled for release on October 15. These guidelines form the backbone of adult, child and pediatric cardiorespiratory care for all EMTs and paramedics.

They are also a core component of any EMT or paramedic education program. Updating the entire EMS curriculum is a significant process that can prove daunting to even experienced EMS educators; however, with proper planning, this process can be a relatively smooth one. Here are five steps to make the transition to the 2015 AHA guidelines as painless as possible.

1. Create a master list of all educational materials that need to be upgraded

A student practices bag-valve mask ventilation (image courtesy National EMS Academy)
A student practices bag-valve mask ventilation (image courtesy National EMS Academy)

There is a tremendous amount of curriculum, resources and media that incorporate AHA guidelines. Lesson plans, exam questions, quizzes, handouts, homework, simulations, clinical guidelines, textbooks, instruction videos, study guides and more will be impacted.

To make the process smooth and efficient, start reviewing materials now to identify everything that needs to be upgraded to the 2015 AHA standards. EMS educators should develop a master list of where all the AHA guidelines live in the current curriculum. This list will aid in the division of labor among faculty when upgrading materials, and will ensure that nothing is missed in the upgrade process.

2. Determine when publications will be available

Inevitably, there will be a delay or lag from the time when the AHA updates are released to the time that publishers will have updated textbooks, PowerPoint slide decks, exam banks and other commercially available material. Since these materials often make up a considerable chunk of the educational resources used by EMS education programs, it is important to contact the representatives of the resources your program currently utilizes to learn when they anticipate that updated materials will be available. This is very important, as it is difficult to teach the new AHA guidelines if the textbooks are still using the old ones.

3. Determine when 2015 AHA courses will be available

Nearly every EMS program in the U.S. utilizes or requires AHA training programs such as Healthcare Provider, Advanced Cardiac Life Support, and Pediatric Advanced Life Support in their curriculum. Therefore, it is important to learn when up-to-date courses, textbooks, and instructor updates will be available.

The American Heart Association has released their 2015 Guidelines Preliminary Product Release Schedule. BLS and ACLS courses are scheduled for release in March/April of 2016 and PALS is slated to be released in July/August 2016.   Contact your local AHA Training Center Coordinator to learn when the updated materials and courses will be available. This will aid EMS educators greatly in determining the best time for transitioning to the 2015 AHA guidelines.

4. Develop a plan for upgrading the curriculum to the 2015 AHA guidelines

Upgrading the curriculum to the 2015 AHA guidelines is a major task for any EMS education program. It will require a significant amount of time from faculty who are likely already stretched to the max. The faculty should meet as a group and create a written master plan for transition to the 2015 AHA guidelines.  

The plan should include how long the process will take, the division of tasks among faculty, when updated textbooks and AHA courses will be available, how and when faculty will receive updated instructor certifications, what semester is the best time to roll out the updated curriculum, and finally, how students who are caught in between the AHA guidelines will be transitioned from their previous certification to a new certification. Having a written plan for faculty to follow will remove a significant amount of stress from the equation and provide a clear timeline for transition.

5. Start early!

Transitioning to the 2015 AHA guidelines is a major effort that encompasses nearly every course taught in an EMS education. This simply cannot be done last minute. The sooner EMS educators begin the process of transition, the more time they will have to make the necessary changes, and the smoother the transition will occur.  

 

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