Continuing Education and Training for the EMS Professional By Deputy Chief Norris Croom If you are familiar with the 1999 movie “The Matrix,” starring Keanu Reeves, then you know the basis of the movie is that people are living in a computer-generated world of machine language, and the machines are in control. One unique feature available to the few humans who are fighting “The Matrix” is the ability to instantly learn anything using a computer program. In one example, Keanu Reeves’s character learns all forms of martial arts by simply uploading the training software via a hardwire connection in the back of his head. He is then immediately able to perform any type of martial art. As the emergency medical services (EMS) profession continues to progress and become more complicated, the need for continuing education and training at all levels is increasing as well. Additionally, in our high speed world where we want more information in less time, traditional classroom environments are becoming the exception instead of the norm. And while we aren’t quite to the level of “The Matrix,” technology has allowed us to move forward in EMS training and education with online and distance learning programs. From the field practitioner all the way to the chief paramedic, there are numerous requirements for continuing education and training. Standard classes, such as CPR, advanced cardiac life support, and pediatric education are required for prehospital professionals. If an individual is serving in a supervisory role, classes on HIPAA, human resources, budgeting and finance, management and leadership are also going to be on the list. In our high speed world where we want more information in less time, traditional classroom environments are becoming the exception instead of the norm. Technology now allows for many of these classes to be completed either partially or completely online. Didactic portions of classes can be completed in the convenience of a home or office, and the practical portion can then be scheduled at an established training center. Classes are offered in a variety of forms, including learning management systems (LMS), direct access to the program provider or online learning that is now offered by many colleges and universities. If an individual decides to seek a promotion and higher education is required to achieve that next position, online learning is an excellent way to obtain that certificate or degree. There are numerous programs available that are geared specifically to the EMS professional, and currently an individual can earn an associate, bachelor’s, or master’s degree in EMS. The key to these programs is that they can be done at whatever pace the individual chooses; understanding that work and family are major factors in finding the right balance. The need for EMS professionals, both providers and leaders, is only going to increase as our population continues to grow and age. We need providers who are educated on the latest illnesses, treatment procedures, and new techniques and equipment as they becomes available. Many of us used online resources to learn what needed to be done to respond and treat Ebola patients. EMS leaders need to be able to take their organizations to the next level, and with programs such as community paramedicine, mobile/community integrated healthcare, the Affordable Care Act, changes in Medicare and provider reimbursement and the changes in healthcare overall, continuing education, coupled with higher education are going to be in great demand. Take advantage of the online and distance learning EMS programs that are available. You may choose one program or a variety of programs depending on what your needs are, but choose wisely. Your time and money are limited, and we don’t have the ability to learn all we need to know by a simple download like they could in “The Matrix”. Yet. Bio: Norris W. Croom III, EFO, CEMSO, CFO, is the deputy chief of operations for the Castle Rock, Colo. Fire and Rescue Department. He currently serves as the international director for the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) EMS Section and as the vice chair and EMS representative on the Center for Public Safety Excellence (CPSE) Commission on Professional Credentialing.