EMS World Expo Quick Take: Creativity, flexibility key to rural EMS education, training

Panelists discuss how they are making EMS education and training more accessible and available in rural parts of the country


The plight of rural emergency services has been one of the biggest concerns of the industry in recent years, and as the country continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, those concerns have only deepened.

However, in a virtual session at EMS World Expo, Scott Logan, licensing and education coordinator for the Wyoming Office of EMS; and Tracey Loscar, chief of Matanuska-Susitna (Mat-Su) Borough EMS in Wasilla, Alaska, detailed how they were using technology to connect future EMS providers with the training and education to help them get a career foothold.

Memorable quotes about rural EMS education and training

In a virtual session at EMS World Expo, Scott Logan, licensing and education coordinator for the Wyoming Office of EMS; and Tracey Loscar, chief of Matanuska-Susitna (Mat-Su) Borough EMS in Wasilla, Alaska, detailed how they were using technology to connect future EMS providers with the training and education to help them get a career foothold. (Photo/Screenshot)
In a virtual session at EMS World Expo, Scott Logan, licensing and education coordinator for the Wyoming Office of EMS; and Tracey Loscar, chief of Matanuska-Susitna (Mat-Su) Borough EMS in Wasilla, Alaska, detailed how they were using technology to connect future EMS providers with the training and education to help them get a career foothold. (Photo/Screenshot)

“Don’t be afraid to try something new. Just because it’s working doesn’t mean we can’t do it better, and just because we’ve done it that way in the past, doesn’t mean we can’t improve.” — Scott Logan

“Semper Gumby. As you work through this, you need to be flexible. You need to be willing and able to try new things.” — Scott Logan

“Use live actors whenever possible. Simulation is great, live actors are better because of the feel. It’s tactile. If you get people into it, and they can act, that’s a huge help for you. It gives you the option for unpredictable responses, makes it dynamic and interactive.” — Tracey Loscar

“EMS is this enigma to a lot of people. They don’t understand the full scope of what we’re capable of doing. Even if you don’t like the word ‘branding,’ consider it. Make yourself a moderated and controlled social media page and control the message you’re sending out.” — Tracey Loscar

Top takeaways about rural EMS education and training

Logan kicked off the presentation by detailing the specific challenges for EMS agencies in Wyoming. Based on a population density of 5.91, many organizations in the state are considered frontier EMS agencies, which exacerbates the obstacle of providing quality education to aspiring providers. In Alaska, the landscape is even more expansive, with a population density of 1.1, and more caribou than people.

To combat that issue, Logan and Loscar explained the technology and tactics they were utilizing to make classes, labs, clinicals and training available for a larger number of people without requiring undue hardship through excessive travel.  

Following are 4 takeaways on rural EMS training.

1. Struggles facing rural EMS educators and students

Logan and Loscar discussed several challenges to rural EMS education:

  • A copy of a copy of a fax – An EMS newcomer is taught by an EMT who had also been taught by an EMT, resulting in homegrown training
  • The state’s EMS services are made up of 70% volunteers and with the distance, Logan said it can be hard to meet the qualifications while also juggling work and home obligations, meaning students miss class or are late due to travel
  • Many newcomers are taught local protocols and practices as opposed to the national standard curriculum
  • Student/instructor ratios fluctuate between 1:4 to 1:32 depending on enrollment, which makes it difficult for instructors
  • Multiple small classes occurring at one time: In 2019, the state held 302 classes at all four EMS levels, of which 188 had 10 students or less
  • Shallow talent pool
  • Lack of specialization or available outside training

2. How to meet the needs of the community and aspiring providers

Logan detailed three different program styles available in Wyoming: Traditional, hybrid and remote:

  • Traditional. Lecture, labs and clinicals held in-person
  • Hybrid. Lecture delivered online, labs conducted on campus one to two times a month, clinical rotations require travel and are setup by the program
  • Remote. Lecture delivered online, labs conducted by a local agency site coordinator with no long travel required, clinical rotations are set up by the individual program and may require travel

3. Technology gives students options that mesh with lifestyle

Conference platforms like Zoom, WebEx and GoToMeeting, and learning management systems, such as JB Navigate, My Brady Labs, Moodle, Canvas and Blackboard, record sessions to allow people to watch on demand. These course delivery options have the following advantages and disadvantages:

  • Advantages for instructors.nlimited class size, less chance to go down a rabbit hole during a lecture
  • Advantages for students. Limited travel, able to attend class from work, home
  • Disadvantages for instructors. No visual interaction with students, understanding of technology, requires complete prep prior to classes, harder to demonstrate skills concepts
  • Disadvantages for students. Can be harder to concentrate and focus vs. in-person, temptation to wander off (physically and mentally), more possibility for variation in skills demonstration

4. How to enhance training for rural EMS

Logan and Loscar offered the following advice for how to enhance rural EMS training:

  • Color outside the lines. Try a modified flipped classroom, break information down to basic skills
  • Be hands-on. Practice operational skills, make it competitive, team building (bonding over misery)
  • Make it realistic. Use live actors, costumes/makeup
  • Don’t reinvent the wheel. Look at canned courses, carve off segments you can work with
  • Reinvent the wheel if you need to. If your home source is outdated material, don’t be afraid to make your own curriculum
  • Think outside the box. Check out educational resources from veterinarians, midwives and nurse practitioners
  • Let them “science.” Provide source material and learning goals

Additional education and training resources for rural EMS providers

Check out these supplemental resources for rural EMS providers and educators:

Request product info from top EMS Online Training companies

Thank You!

By submitting your information, you agree to be contacted by the selected vendor(s).

Join the discussion

Copyright © 2020 EMS1. All rights reserved.