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4 tips for hands-on EMS training in your station

It can be difficult to find time to practice a skill, but bringing the necessary equipment into a station is the first step


Paramedics practice pediatric patient care with simulation.

Photo/Children’s Hospital Colorado EMS Outreach and Education

Article updated March 19, 2018

Hands-on practice of assessment and treatment skills is essential for the initial and ongoing training of EMTs and paramedics. But hands-on practice is often constrained by limited time and instructional resources.

Here’s how to make the most of your time and available instructors for hands-on practice, low- and high-fidelity simulation and competency checks.

1. Organize stations with the necessary and functional equipment

If possible, set up the stations so that students who are engaged in another instructional activity can easily transition to the skill practice with minimal down time. Place personnel in groups of two to five, similar to their real-world response configuration. If you expect to replicate a skill station in the future, make and maintain a checklist of equipment to reference each time a station is set up.

2. Use a variety of ems education technology

Prepare personnel for hands-on training with pre-work in your department’s learning management system. The pre-work might include a video, narrated PowerPoint presentation, document review or pre-test.

Provide just-in-time instruction related to the skill through different learning methods. For instance, have an instructor demonstrate the skill for each group of students, and use a video accessed with a QR code or web link posted at the station to show students how they are expected to perform.

While a video assures more consistent instruction, an instructor demonstration encourages students to ask clarifying questions and receive feedback as they practice the skill.

3. Identify training leaders

At each station, identify two or three crew members and rotate the training responsibility through the team. For larger groups of four or five people, assign one crew member to use their smartphone to video record the team’s performance for later review, and have another track the team’s progress on a checklist.

4. Stay focused on learning objectives and outcomes

Keep instructors focused on observing and critiquing the students’ skills, and providing remediation as needed. Save the fluff, tricks, hacks and war stories related to the skill or simulation for a debriefing period or break.

How do you organize your lab and EMS patient simulation space for efficient and effective skill practice and competency checks? Share your tips and best practices in the comments.

Greg Friese, MS, NRP, is the Lexipol Editorial Director, leading the efforts of the editorial team on Police1, FireRescue1, Corrections1 and EMS1. Greg served as the EMS1 editor-in-chief for five years. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a master’s degree from the University of Idaho. He is an educator, author, national registry paramedic since 2005, and a long-distance runner. Greg was a 2010 recipient of the EMS 10 Award for innovation. He is also a three-time Jesse H. Neal award winner, the most prestigious award in specialized journalism, and the 2018 and 2020 Eddie Award winner for best Column/Blog. Connect with Greg on LinkedIn.