Study objective: To survey emergency medical services (EMS) providers on a national level to determine and describe their perspective regarding their initial and continuing education (CE) needs in pediatrics.
Methods: A 10-question survey was developed, pilot-tested, and sent to EMS providers as a part of their National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians reregistration materials.
Results: Surveys were completed by 18,218 EMS providers, a response rate of 67%. During a typical month, 60% of emergency medical technician-paramedics (EMT-Ps), 84% of EMT-intermediates (EMT-Is), and 87% of basic EMTs (EMT-Bs) care for 0 to 3 pediatric patients. CE was identified by all provider levels as the main source of their pediatric knowledge and skills. A state or national mandate for required CE in pediatrics was supported by 76% of surveyed providers. More than 70% of all providers responded they were comfortable to some degree with their own ability and their EMS system's ability when confronted with a critical pediatric call. Cost, availability, and travel distance were identified by all levels as the primary barriers to obtaining pediatric CE. All levels identified infants as the age of greatest concern if the provider was called to manage a critical case.
Conclusion: Surveyed practicing nationally registered EMS providers have infrequent contact with pediatric patients and have acquired most of their pediatric knowledge and skills from CE. In general, these providers are comfortable with their personal and their system's ability to care for children, but clearly support the need for required pediatric CE and identify the birth to 3-year age range as the priority for an educational focus. Cost, travel distance, and availability of pediatric CE are barriers that should be considered if pediatric CE is to be required of EMS providers.