EMT training scandal: A sordid story of deceit

Continuing education should add more information, not merely repeat it

Editor's note: A former EMT instructor in Mass. is going to jail for falsifying records that showed dozens of emergency personnel attended courses to maintain their certification.

This sordid story of deceit began nearly 2 years ago and ends in prison time for the chief player of the scam, financial penalties for others, and a lot of grief for everyone involved. The biggest loser is the public, who might have lost their trust in their public safety providers' ability to provide competent services during an emergency.

There are a few lessons to be learned:

  1. The number of personnel involved in the fraud was significant. It spoke to the ease and comfort people had not to attend classes and yet claim they had. It was pretty easy for people in positions of authority to condone the practice and at the very least turn a blind eye.
  2. To the EMS providers who were involved, the value of their continuing education must have been low. To a certain extent, I'd have to agree. Who wants to hear about the same materials the same way every two years? It would be like having to sit through a driver's education class every two years to maintain your driver's license. The concept of refresher training has to change. Continuing education should add more information, not merely repeat it. Allow providers to test out of their refresher requirements. The National Registry allows that now, and it makes sense. Not all requirements fit all people, so make it competency-based.
  3. Finally, this is a cautionary tale for educators. Don't demean what you do by lowering the value of your work. It's important. Yes, it's more work to put together a great CE than sliding a few rosters across the table. But is it worth the risk?

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