Tuesday, November 25, 2008


I just read the final version of the National EMS Scope of Practice Model, a document intended to provide a unified guideline for the scope of prehospital providers in the coming years. While I like the idea of cleaning up the fragmentary levels of training and scopes of practice across the nation, I cannot help but be frustrated when I read this document. It doesn't really change anything, it makes the system as confusing as ever, and it doesn't really work to bring the profession forward.

Therefore, I'd like to present my own scope of practice model -- okay, more of a manifesto -- for where EMS should be in 10 years.


Emergency Medical Technician - Essentially unchanged from the scope they retain today, the EMT should be able to provide life-saving care for critical patients until more advanced providers arrive, and transport patients who do not require advanced care.

Specific EMT skills: OPA/NPA, BVM, King Airway/Combitube, AED, oxygen, spinal immobilization, ASA for chest pain, SQ epi for anaphylaxis.

[ EMT-Rural - An optional intermediate life support module only for rural areas where there is no availability of paramedics. Adds basic 4-lead ECG monitoring, peripheral IV access, fluid administration, first-line code drugs (epi, atropine, amio, lido), and a few other basic medications (albuterol/atrovent nebs, NTG for chest pain, pain medication if transporting provider). ]

Paramedic - An improved version of the current paramedic standard, with a two-year schooling program and increased clinical/internship time. An Associate's degree and state licensure (NOT certification) are mandatory.

Specific Paramedic Skills: Endotracheal intubation, Rapid Sequence Intubation (with paralytics), surgical cricothyrotomy, nasogatric tubes, adult and pediatric IV and IO access, 12-lead ECG monitoring, interpretation, and transmission, cardioversion and pacing, IV fluid, expander, and blood administration, needle chest decompression, CPAP/BiPAP, and administration of a wide variety of medications with few, if any, mandatory OLMC consults.

Prehospital Physician Assistant - The PPA is an experienced paramedic who has gone to a fully-accredited PA school. They are deployed in small numbers throughout the system to address two populations of patients: first, the patients that require simple procedures or care which can be accomplished in the field and eliminate their need for transport; and secondly, the patients who require more advanced critical care interventions which are out of the paramedic scope of practice.

Specific PPA Skills - Critical care: Additional advanced airway options (retrograde intubation, LMA/ILMA, fiberoptic intubation), chest tubes, certain central lines (IJ/femoral), advanced medications (additional pressors, beta-blockers, mannitol, and others), Foley catheterization, pericardiocentesis, and more. Primary care: Wound cleaning and suturing, Foley/G-tube replacement, trach tube replacement, point-of-care lab testing, evaluation/referral option for non-emergent patients.

System Model

Prehospital emergency care in the urban area should consist of a tiered system of BLS, ALS, and advanced providers. A system should deploy a mix of EMT and paramedic ambulances, with a small number of single-PPA "fly cars" in the system.

Calls should be triaged according to an evidence-based model; for most calls both an EMT and paramedic ambulance should be dispatched. 4 providers onscene is an optimal number for managing both patients, and except in the simplest cases there will always be a paramedic evaluation of the patient. Patients will be transported by the appropriate ambulance, and if the patient is critical the EMT crew will assist the paramedic crew with transport (allowing both paramedics and one EMT to function smoothly in the back of the ambulance). On certain critical calls (cardiac arrests) a PPA unit will be dispatched as well, but in most cases they will be requested by providers onscene for either critical or simple patients. In the event of a critical patient the PPA will assume patient care and work with the paramedics during transport; on a simple patient the PPA will be able to free the ambulance and remain onscene to resolve the issue.

Fire department personnel will retain CPR/AED or First Responder certification, and will respond on traffic accidents, EMS requests for lift assists, and cardiac arrests, and other specific calls as needed. EMS systems will be encouraged to develop in-house tactical, extrication, and technical rescue teams.

Medical directors will provide primarily offline protocols with a high amount of ongoing education, case review, and training, particularly in high-risk/low-frequency skills. Wireless communications technology will be in place to allow providers fast access to physician consults if needed, with easy transmission of monitoring data.

That's my pipe dream...


AdCy said...

It's a nice dream...

Drew Rinella said...


Hailey said...

This is loosely our system in Vancouver BC and Victoria and Nanaimo as well (I believe). Except the PPAs, that would be nice though. We have some Critical Care Paramedics (mainly flight crews) as well as a dedicated Infant Transport crew (mainly air with some ground crews in Vancouver) specially trained in dealing with pregnant mothers, prenatal, infant and young child care. Our Primary Care Paramedic licensing level (working to be standard across Canada) is a cross between your EMT and Rural EMT, with intubation allowed depending on Provincial legislation (BC does not allow, argh!). Mind you this post is so old I doubt you'll read this!