Smithfield Herald

EMS moves training in-house

Emergency medical technician Benjamin Braswell, left, and paramedic Sean Flannery demonstrate the procedures for checking an ambulance's equipment.
Emergency medical technician Benjamin Braswell, left, and paramedic Sean Flannery demonstrate the procedures for checking an ambulance's equipment.

Johnston County Emergency Services became a certified teaching institution last month, which means the department can offer continuing education cheaper and more conveniently to its staff.

After the county founded its emergency services division in 2008, its leaders began looking for ways to bring continuing education in-house, said Josh Holloman, the county’s EMS chief. To do that, the department had to become certified, which finally happened on Aug. 1 after a year of preparation.

“We can better train EMTs, paramedics, as well as our firefighters and dispatchers,” Holloman said. “It doesn’t just help EMS people, but it helps the whole EMS system, which is fire, 911 (dispatching) and EMS.”

All emergency service workers must complete hours of continuing education every year. For EMTs and paramedics, that’s 96 hours over four years, said Ben Lawson, assistant chief of training, who oversaw the county’s push to offer in-house training.

The department will continue to partner with Johnston Community College for some of the training, Holloman said, but the school doesn’t offer all the skills and classes that emergency workers need. Teaching in-house means Emergency Services can fill the gaps on its own, rather than bring in teachers from outside. Instead, personnel within the department who are certified instructors can teach their peers. Providing the training within the department saves time and money, Holloman said.

He said teaching in-house also means personnel can receive the training when convenient for them, and it allows for more online learning and one-on-one teaching. “It’s really important for us to provide this to people at work,” Holloman said.

Becoming a certified teaching institution is important also because it could save money in the future. Right now, the state provides a waiver for the cost of continuing education, Holloman said. But for the last two years, the legislature has talked about ending the waiver. The cost of any given class is around $65 per person, he said.

With 184 on staff and more than 50 classes each year, the cost to Johnston County could add up, Holloman said. “We would have had to spend thousands of dollars to provide training,” he said. Now the department no longer has to worry if the fee waiver disappears.

Lawson said Emergency Services has 12 certified instructors who can provide continuing education to the 184 people within the department. But the training is open to anyone in the county, such as paramedics and firefighters employed by towns, so the potential pool is about 250 people. “It’s a great impact not only now but in the long run,” he said.

The in-house training is also benefiting 911 dispatching. Johnston County’s 911 department is the first in the state to have all three certifications – in medical, police and fire dispatch, said Jason Barbour, director of 911 dispatching. Though other emergency dispatch departments in the state have begun to receive all three, “we are the only one that has its own instructors in-house,” he said.

Barbour said in-house training is extremely valuable. “Any time you’re going to have anything in-house, you’re not relying on outside sources for you to be able to get your job done,” he said. “And now that we’ve got it in-house, it just eliminates an extra bureaucratic step in the process.”

This also saves money, he said. “Number one, we don’t have to have travel expenses to send our people away to training,” he said. “We’re not required to have minimum numbers to hold a class. We can hold a class with one if we need to.”

Becoming a certified teaching institution was also a matter of ownership, Holloman added. “To me, that’s one of those necessary things as we continue to grow as a system,” he said.