[Nameplate] Fair ~ 73°F  
High: 88°F ~ Low: 68°F
Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016

Changes will have little effect

Friday, January 14, 2005

EMTs Bill Tanner and Amelia Denson take a vehicle accident patient to the emergency room.
SIKESTON -- Proposed federal guidelines for Emergency Medical Services providers has some states in a current panic, particularly about rumors circulating that required training hours will double.

But Greg Natsch, state EMS training coordinator in Jefferson City, insists state and local EMS providers have nothing to worry about.

"There's not enough information yet to say it will double the amount of training or drastically change -- some states it might affect, depending on what they require. My advice to EMTs in Missouri is to read the draft. There's nothing in there that talks about hours," Natsch said.

In fact the difference in training required in Missouri versus what the draft says is negligible, Natsch said.

"Missouri has been ahead of the game," Natsch commented.

The draft, known as the National Scope of Practice Model, aims to guarantee highly trained workers across the nation. It focuses on requirements for four different levels of EMS providers: emergency medical responder, basic emergency medical technician, paramedic and advanced scope or skills paramedic.

New Madrid County Ambulance District Director Ralph Barnwell admitted he's pleased to know the changes, if any, would be minor.

"Right now the state of Missouri already has stringent training qualifications, and I'm hoping the proposal will just bring the other states up to our level," Barnwell said.

However, if training were to be doubled or increase significantly, it would be critical to nearly all ambulance districts, Barnwell pointed out, adding his squad of 36 paid volunteers all have other jobs.

"All of my people are school teachers, carpenters, housewives and nurses," Barnwell said. "Many wouldn't have the time to do all of the training."

In Missouri, the minimum hours of training for a basic EMT is 110 hours.

"But we have programs that do 120, 150 and 180 hours. So we already have programs that are established that are teaching much more than the minimum," Natsch said.

Most EMT courses run from January, finish in May and test in June, Natsch said. Typically students train four hours a night, two nights a week.

Currently there are 12,700 licensed EMTs and 5,000 paramedics in the state. Missouri doesn't distinguish between volunteer and employed EMS workers because it has both paid and unpaid volunteers, Natsch noted.

Although Natsch admitted he doesn't agree with everything in the draft, for the most part, Missouri is already at the draft's proposed level of training.

"Many of the skills proposed are skills we're already doing," Natsch said.

Those developing the proposals are physicians, nurses, EMTs, paramedics, state training coordinators, etc., Natsch noted.

"They're a large working group of people involved in the field -- not guys in white shirts in Washington, D.C., sitting around saying, 'Let's throw a dart and come up with a certain number,'" Natsch commented.

In addition these guidelines states can adopt are not federally mandated, Natsch pointed out.

"This isn't a done deal, and it won't be for years," Natsch said. "This is just a first draft. It's draft No. 1 that's out for public comment."

Natsch admitted he's recently received countless inquiries about the proposal from EMS students, instructors and members of the media.

"Once they read the draft and looked at the skill sets for EMTs and paramedics, they learned we're already there," Natsch said.

Natsch said he hopes the public will understand what they're reading is not fact yet.

"What's good through all of this (attention) is it's getting a lot of discussion -- that's the most positive thing about it," Natsch said. "It's getting people to talk about it." Public comments are being accepted through this month. To view the draft, visit www.emsscopeofpractice.org.