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The Lessons of 2020

This past year has been a lesson in survival and existence. COVID had forced many previously in-person events to cancel or be rescheduled to a more accommodating time.

Somethings cannot be cancelled or delayed though…

Emergency Medical Services has to be there whenever a call for help goes out; they cannot wait for a more convenient moment. First responders need training, especially newcomers to the field, and with health emergencies like COVID, even seasoned professionals need updates. Reduced class sizes do not allow for the full-scale education that is necessary to keep providing the best pre-hospital care necessary.

Online, virtual learning opportunities have popped up throughout our country. New York State also made use of online learning in its many forms. The 2020 NYSVARA Pulse Check virtual conference (ZOOM) was labeled a tremendous success and more than doubled the previous year’s participation. NYSVARA is already planning on a hybrid conference in 2021 with both limited in-person attendance (dependent on the State’s occupancy rules) and a virtual component.

Teresa A. Hamilton, the NYSVARA Vice President and Pulse Check Committee Chair, believes online learning has been invaluable, saying “Online learning has been a huge success for EMS personnel. It allows those members of EMS who are forced to work multiple hours at multiple agencies to make ends meet, an opportunity to learn while at their place of employment on whatever down time they may have.” There is also the advantage of sharing learning with their partners. She also added, “Although we NEED the in-person surroundings we need that more for the social bonding and sharing ‘war’ stories and the virtual aspect allows for learning on our own pace.”

“I do ultimately feel that online learning has benefitted EMS, both new and old, mostly due to easier access to content,” said Jason D. Haag, CCEMT-P, CIC, CAC, CADS, of Finger Lakes REMSCO. Haag also sits on the NYS Emergency Medical Services Council. “The downfall here is skills. There is only so much demonstration and/or observation you can do virtually. I do see virtual learning, at least in a hybrid model, remaining post-COVID. We have been able to demonstrate that didactic portions of classes can easily and effectively be delivered in this way with far better outreach to students than traditional brick-and-mortar classes. I do believe this will be beneficial for providers in rural areas. I feel that virtual training is extremely useful for the delivery of didactic material, however, I do feel that in-person training and evaluation has to take place for practical skills.”

From the instructor’s standpoint there are both good and bad expectations about virtual learning. The lack of interaction with students, depending on the method of presentation, may leave the speaker unsure that his lessons are being understood. An instructor also must hope that his students are disciplined enough to actually be paying attention and not just logged on at an unmanned computer or playing video games on another window. Depending on the audience (class) size and the platform being used, an interactive online setting may be more productive and allow for real-time questions and answers.

Hopefully as COVID and gathering restrictions ease up, more classes will allow for hybrid learning. This would both let busy and distant students learn and maintain certifications, while still providing actual hands-on learning for both new students and skill practice.

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