When the Covid-19 pandemic forced the cancelation of many classes, the TEEX EMT and Paramedic programs instead moved to an online platform to continue the education of the students currently enrolled in the program.

More than 50 Students are enrolled in 3 separate classes, including two Paramedic and one EMT class. Program manager Carl Voskamp said the change from face-to-face teaching to watching an instructor online, while not without its challenges, has been positive.

“I don’t think online training will ever totally replace the effectiveness of face-to-face instruction, but this transition has gone surprisingly well,” said Voskamp. “We did not cancel any class session.  The students and instructors have adapted and are committed to make the best of a bad situation.”

One of the biggest challenges at first, was how long to plan to be in an online platform, and how to plan curriculum around that. Voskamp said the instructors are committed to doing what needs to be done to ensure the students are getting the attention and training they need.

“We revised course schedules to front load lecture sessions in the hope we could return to small group skill sessions after the “Shelter in Place” order was lifted. Now, we are trying to figure out a way to conduct skill/scenario sessions remotely. Skills that require use of special equipment/supplies will be virtually impossible to be done remotely, but scenarios can be done via live interactive video with an instructor narrating as a student does an assessment on a friend or family member.”

The biggest issue the program faces now is whether or not the students get their clinical rotations in during the Covid-19 pandemic. If they were able to find a hospital or EMS provider that would allow them to get live practical experience, the student would probably have to provide their own personal protective equipment or PPE, which at this time, is hard to get. Voskamp said they are modifying the curriculum to reflect this challenge.

”We have revised the minimum hour requirement for clinical and EMS experiences.  Our students have had minimum requirements for hours, patient age categories and conditions, and skill performance.  We are reducing the minimum hour requirement, but maintaining the patient age/conditions and skill performance.  We think the requirements should focus on their experiences, not time.”

He also noted that for students that are very close to meeting all requirements, they can complete some through simulation.  The Committee on Accreditation for the EMS Professions (CoAEMSP) released a position statement that under the current circumstances, simulation could substitute for some of the clinical requirements, but not the Capstone EMS Internship.

So what does the future of the EMT/Paramedic program look like now? It’s a wait and see game. The immediate future classes have been canceled, with the intent to reschedule those students to future classes once the in-person classes can resume. However, this experience has brought about changes that may continue in the future.

“It’s going so well that we are considering modifying our [in person] class schedules to have separate lecture and lab days. Lecture days would have some students in class, and others remotely via video conference. That would decrease the travel for many of our students. Everyone would come on the field for skill labs,” said Voskamp.