Accreditation Case Study
Gwinnett County Fire & EMS
Gwinnett County Department of Fire and Emergency Services of Atlanta, Georgia, recently completed its self study and site visit as part of the Paramedic educational program accreditation process with the CoAEMSP under the auspices of CAAHEP. They are only the second accredited EMS education program in the state, and the first fire department in Georgia to receive accreditation. Fire Chief Bill Myers, Chief of Training Rod Dawson, and Instructor Julio Diaz, TEMS, NREMT-P, shared their experience with the accreditation process, along with best practices, to help others minimize the challenges while maximizing the success of the accreditation experience.
The Self Study: "If We Could Do It All Over Again..."
When looking back on the self study, Chief Dawson stresses that first of all, accuracy in record-keeping is important. Chief Myers agrees, saying that documentation is the biggest change he would have made, explaining that documentation would have made the accreditation process easier. "We could have done an after-action review of our programs just like we do with major structure fires," he explains. "The Fire Academy staff discusses lessons learned [after a major structures fire], and documentation is part of the after-action review." Using this same type of documentation in their educational program, Chief Myers explains, would have been a great asset during the accreditation process.
Chief Dawson believes using a team approach would have made the accreditation process easier to implement. "Although you need a team leader, you can perform a better audit, gather more input, and get more done prior to the site visit with more eyes involved," he points out. Instructor Diaz, who was given major responsibility for completing the self study, concurs. "I would have liked to spend more time in the areas of curriculum and agenda. I would have explored and expanded on other parts of the field study. I would have gotten more input from the field and faculty in these areas."
Acknowledging the outstanding job that Instructor Diaz did, Chief Myers says he still would have made sure more people were involved in the self study process to support Instructor Diaz. "We didn't realize the amount of work it would take. Resource-wise, we would have supported Instructor Diaz more.""Have confidence and be persistent," Instructor Diaz advises, who was recognized as Trainer of the Year in 2010. "Most programs have a good chance of becoming accredited if they work on the [CAAHEP]Standards and the process." Breaking the self study into components was also significant in helping Instructor Diaz see numerous accomplishments along the way. "It didn't look so overwhelming," he said about following this strategy. "Having small goals makes it an easier process."
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Plan to Attend the Next Accreditation Workshop
Accreditation Workshop: STEPS TO SUCCESS
This comprehensive two-day accreditation workshop will arm you with all you need for a successful accreditation experience. You will receive hands-on instructions and guidance. Plan to attend now.
Pittsburgh, PA - Friday June 3, 2011 8:00 AM
to Saturday June 4, 2011 at 12:00 PM
Join us for an informative workshop, which will include the:
1. Concept and overview of accreditation
2. Process of accreditation
3. Steps to the self study report with examples
4. Site visit process--how to prepare for it and what happens during and after the visit
5. Common stumbling blocks to accreditation and how to overcome them
Hotel rooms are available at the William Penn Omni Hotel at a special rate of $159 per night plus tax for the CoAEMSP workshop.
EARLY BIRD registration fee is $275 until May 3, 2011.
Registration beginning May 4, 2011 is $325.
This fee includes the cost of the workshop plus breakfast, lunch and breaks each day.
Registration will close automatically after May 24, 2011.
Space is limited so register now!
September at NAEMSE -- Reno, NV
November 14-15 -- Atlanta
Plan to Attend this April Webinar!
CoAEMSP Interpretations:Medical Director Responsibilities
Thursday, April 7, 2011
2pm ET / 1pm CT / 12noon MT / 11am PT
Who Should Attend: Program Directors and Site Visitors
Participants will describe the responsibilities of a medical director and list the documentation required to support the medical director's involvement. Plan to attend this informative webinar.
A Look in the Mirror:
Evaluating Program Strengths and Weaknesses
by Patricia L. Tritt, RN, MA
Health One EMS
The accreditation process is outcome based. In other words, the focus of the education program--and therefore the review of the program--is on the performance of the graduates rather than on the process of the education.
What does this mean for programs? For example, are you teaching to a text or are you teaching to develop a competent entry level Paramedic? Texts are teaching tools, not an education.
Are you teaching to have students pass a certifying exam--while admittedly important--or are you teaching to develop a competent entry level Paramedic?
Exams of any kind are merely snapshots in time. The laser focus must always be on producing a competent product--in this case Paramedic graduates.
Frequent assessment of the students and of the education program is essential to determine program strengths and weaknesses (opportunities).
Programs are typically familiar with--and comfortable wit-- student assessment, but have a much less structured approach to looking in the mirror for an adequate, and frank, assessment of the program.
Where to start?
1. Begin with a re-review of the Standards and Guidelines from a fresh perspective. Ask the tough questions: not only do we do this (the Standard), but what does the Standard really mean, how do we do it, how well do we do it, and what do we need to change?
2. Avoid answering what you can do and instead focus on what should you do.
3. Determine strengths and weaknesses using these practices and mechanisms:
- Students evaluate faculty/instructors frequently. Incentives are provided for open, frank, constructive feedback. Feedback is acknowledged and information is relayed on what changes have been made or will be made based on their input.
- Students evaluate program courses or components frequently with the same caveats as above.
- Students evaluate adjunct or skill instructors frequently.
- Faculty, Advisory Committee members, the Program Medical Director, and any other stakeholders complete the Program Personnel Resource Survey at least annually and responses are analyzed and recommendations are implemented.
- Students complete the Student Resource Survey
- at least annually.
- Graduate and Employer Surveys are completed six months following program completion and responses are analyzed and recommendations are implemented.
- Preceptors evaluate your program.
- Students evaluate their preceptors.
- Students evaluate the clinical sites and experiences.
- Faculty members observe and provide feedback to each other.
4. Complete a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats). This process can include any and all stakeholders. Think broadly and use a brainstorming approach.
5. Evaluate the clinical and field resources and student experiences. Do students have difficulty meeting program minimum requirements for patient assessments and skills?
6. Determine the student pass rates on the state or National Registry (NREMT) certifying exams and the first-time pass rate.
7. Determine the attrition/retention rate and identify, categorize, and analyze the factors.
8. Determine the placement rate for graduates. Do graduates have difficulty finding Paramedic positions and if so why? Do employers report that your graduates require more orientation and precepting than graduates from other programs?
9. Write and track all of these assessments and documents and document the resulting changes. Create an intuitional memory.
Finally, visit or speak with other programs and compare your experiences. We often become insular and find it difficult to think outside of our own 'box'. Educators are usually willing to share, so actively seek outside perspectives. Outcome-based education must assess and document entry level competence. Assessment requires multiple levels and techniques of evaluating our strengths and weaknesses and a willingness to look in the mirror.
What is a Realistic Deadline to Write and Complete the ISSR?
Michael A. Belcher BS, AAS, NREMT-P
Southwestern Community College
How long should a program expect to take to write the first ISSR?
When I began the journey to our first accreditation I did not have a clear expectation of how long it should take. I thought I could have it finished in about 3-4 months. As I went through all the steps I learned that my expectation was greatly underestimated. It took me a little over 2 years to complete and have it ready to submit.
My suggestion to anyone who has started or who is about to start their first self-study, is to set a realistic timeline for yourself and stick to it. I found that it is easier to break the process into steps and work on the steps one at a time until you have finished, then move on to the next.
Phase one should include downloading and organizing all the documents and templates you will need to complete. Keep all the information in a binder for easy reference later. Read through all the material slowly and carefully as this will help you set your timeline and help you stay on track.
Phase two will include setting up a meeting with all the departments who will be involved in this process. You will need to let everyone know what is expected of them and what information they will need to help you assemble for the self-study. You may need to set up individual meetings with the dean, vice president and the president of the school to let them know what you are planning and what assistance you will need from them. Depending on how your organization is set up you may need to meet the finance committee to get the funding approved. This process is the hardest to plan for, depending on the schedules of these department heads.
After you have all the necessary information assembled in one place you are ready to sit down and write your self-study. Give yourself enough time to thoroughly evaluate each question on the study and answer in as much detail as possible, as this will help on the site visit.
After you have completed the first draft of the document schedule a meeting with the dean and him/her proofread the study. After you have made any revisions to the documents have another person read through and make any final revisions.
The next step is to let the school know you are ready to submit the document and allow them to proofread and approve it. You will need the college president's signature on the final draft before it is submitted.
This timeline may or may not work for everyone, but I hope it will be of some value as you begin your journey to being accredited.
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Jennifer Anderson Warwick, MA