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5 tips to successfully train EMS staff on updated patient care guidelines

Effective training will ensure you and your field personnel are ready to implement the new patient treatment protocols

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EMS personnel complete a hands-on training simulation on a protocol update.

Photo/Greg Friese

Many EMS agencies prepared for quick implementation of the 2015 AHA guidelines through protocol updates, provider training, and QA process revisions well ahead of their release. Those guidelines, which form the backbone of adult, child and pediatric cardiorespiratory care provided by all EMT’s and paramedics, are evidence-based and seek to improve outcomes in patients needing advanced cardiorespiratory intervention.

For other protocol updates because of new clinical evidence or equipment training officers can expect to take up to six months from the initial release date to train or re-train personnel. This delay to final implementation will be even longer if training officers do not prepare ahead of time for protocol changes.

Here are five tips training officers can use to successfully help EMS providers learn the new protocols and let go of old treatment practices.

1. Accommodate the schedules of day and night crews

Most EMS educators work an eight-hour daytime schedule and as a consequence, training sessions are during business hours. This means the night crews must attend a daytime training session when they would usually be sleeping.

Night crews are less likely to learn and retain information if they are tired and it is unfair for night crews to miss sleep in order to attend a training session. It is also a significant safety issue if night crews end up staying awake for 24 hours or more.

Schedule classes at different times to accommodate day and night crews. Offer some training sessions at 2 p.m. or 6 p.m. so night crews have a chance to get some sleep and instructors on a day schedule can still get to sleep at their regular time.

Accommodating schedules also means that personnel are able to attend the entire session without leaving for an emergency call. Crews cannot be properly trained if they are regularly leaving a training session to respond to calls. Certifying personnel that missed the majority of a class because they had to run calls presents numerous ethical and legal dilemmas.

2. Provide social time

Training sessions provide a unique opportunity for crews that usually function independently to meet and interact with other crews from different shifts. It is natural for these crews to want to catch up with each other. For many personnel, especially those who do not want to be there, this will be a higher priority than the training itself.

Because effective training will not occur until the time-honored tradition of socializing takes place, instructors should intentionally plan for it. Provide food and drink 30-60 minutes before the session. Allow a full hour for a mid-training meal. Plan a 10-minute break at the end of each hour.

3. Provide handouts

Crew members will seek guidance on the important protocol changes. Many will want to know what has changed without fully reading the evidence or training materials. In my experience, a handout is the easiest and most effective way to provide personnel with the key changes in a simple, easy to read format.

Check out the handout format I described in “5 steps for training officers to learn the AHA 2015 guidelines.”

4. Demonstrate

In addition to handouts, personnel will benefit from a demonstration of the algorithms related to protocol updates so they can see how the medical director expects the guidelines to be performed in the field. Demonstrations help to bridge the gap from written algorithm to execution. Provide demonstrations live or as recorded videos for self-study or playback during training sessions.

5. Hands-on simulation

The best way for crew members to retain what they have learned is by simulation. Utilize kinesthetic (hands-on) learning methods to incorporate new protocols in real-life situations. This will help to break the habits of the old guidelines and develop new ones based on current guidelines.

Four simulation stations in a four-hour training session is a realistic expectation. Forty minutes per simulation provides enough time to run the entire algorithm, adequately debrief personnel, and set up for the next group. Simulation practice is the final step to ensure that personnel have successfully incorporated the new guidelines and can implement them.

What are your tips to implement the new guidelines? Share your ideas and experiences in the comments.

This article, originally published August 3, 2015 has been updated with current information

Nick is a nationally recognized expert in paramedic education, military medic to paramedic transition programs and paramedic simulation training. He is a national conference speaker, published simulation author and recipient of the EMS 10 international award for innovation. He is also a member of the NAEMT Military Relations Committee. He can be reached at