EMS instructor: 3 ways to handle 'Will we finish early?'

This question is soul crushing, but someone is certain to pop it so be prepared to handle it


A few days after reading Steve Whitehead’s column, “6 training tips to reach unengaged EMTs” I was a student in a Pediatric Education for Prehospital Providers (PEPP) course. The very first question asked by a classmate was, “Any chance we will finish early?”

This question, as Steve describes, is “soul crushing” for the instructor. It also erodes the interest of students who want to be in the class, and our shared confidence in the capabilities of one another. My classmates were the EMS providers who will respond if one of my children becomes sick at school, injured during a sport event, or involved in a motor vehicle collision.

I find it helpful to script  commonly asked questions, especially questions that are challenging the very premise of the course, event or topic. Consider one of these specific responses to “Will we finish early?”

Ask, stay or leave?

Simply state, “You don’t need to be here. Exercise your personal freedom. Leave and be where you want to be.”

If you don’t want to be part of EMS and the training associated with membership in our profession, the best thing for you, your patients and your co-workers is to get out.

Tailor the class to the students

I get it that for many students re-taking the same refresher course every two years is agonizing. Turn the question back to the student or group of students, “What can we do together so we all find value in this course?”

Many educators, like Lt. Rom Duckworth, are advocating for and teaching other educators to “flip the classroom” and adopt a student-centered approach.

Don’t lower expectations

I have seen many instructors reduce their student performance expectations in response to low attendance. But that results in an eight-hour course being completed in four hours, competency tests being haphazardly administered, and written tests being done as a group activity.

Each of those situations creates the ethical dilemma of earning continuing education without doing the work.

Ask the class, “What are the possible consequences of us completing this eight-hour course in four hours? How might this choice impact us personally or professionally?"

Our supervisors, the residents we serve, and regulators that approve our license application have an expectation that an hour of continuing education takes about an hour to earn. When we complete that education in less time and effort than expected, we put that trust at risk.

How do you respond to the question, “Will we finish early?” Share your specific responses and actions in the comments.

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