Administrative and Educational Characteristics of Paramedic Programs in the United States

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Prehosp Disaster Med


INTRODUCTION: Paramedics are a vital component of the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) workforce and the United States health care system. The continued provision of high-quality care demands constantly improving education at accredited institutions. To date, only limited characteristics of paramedic education in the United States have been documented and studied in the literature. The objective of this study was to describe the educational infrastructure of accredited paramedic programs in the United States in 2018.

METHODS: This is a retrospective, cross-sectional evaluation of the 2018 paramedic program annual report from The Committee on Accreditation of Educational Programs for the EMS Professions (CoAEMSP; Rowlett, Texas USA). The dataset includes detailed program metrics. Additionally, questions concerning program characteristics, demographics, and resources were asked as part of the evaluation. Resource availability was assessed via the Resource Assessment Matrix (RAM) with a benchmark of 80%. Included in the analysis are all paramedic programs with students enrolled. Descriptive statistics were calculated (median, [interquartile range/IQR]).

RESULTS: A total of 677 programs submitted data (100% response rate). Of these, 626 met inclusion criteria, totaling 17,422 students. Program annual enrollment varied greatly from one to 362 with most programs having small sizes (18 students [IQR 12-30]). Program duration was 12 months [IQR 12-16] with total hours of instruction being approximately 1,174 [IQR 1069-1304], 19% of which were dedicated to clinical experience. Full-time faculty sizes were small (two faculty members [IQR 1-3]) with most programs (80%) having annual operating budgets below USD$500,000. For programs with an annual budget below USD$100,000 (34% of programs), annual enrollment was approximately 14 students [IQR 9-21]. Degrees conferred by programs included certificates (90%), associate degrees (55%), and bachelor's degree (2%). Simulation access was assessed with nearly all (100%) programs reporting simple task trainers and 84% of programs investing in advanced simulation manikins. Seventy-eight percent of programs met the RAM benchmark.

CONCLUSION: Most paramedic educational programs in the United States have small annual enrollments with low numbers of dedicated faculty and confer certificates and associate degrees. Nearly one-quarter of paramedic educational programs are not adequately resourced. This study is limited by self-reported data to the national accreditation agency. Future work is needed to identify program characteristics that are associated with high performance.

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ePub ahead of print

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