EMS Education Tips

10 Important Tips to Respect your Students' Time, Knowledge, and Experience

As an educator my motto for any training that I develop or deliver is that it must RESPECT students’ time, experience, and knowledge. When I am a student this is also how I judge the quality of an educator and a training program. Did the training and the educator RESPECT my time, experience, and knowledge?

Regardless of your role in EMS you are an educator. Some of us have the title training officer or EMS educator or FTO. But even those of us without the title are asked to assist with training new employees, precept students, or give a station tour to a group of kids. These are some of my tips for RESPECTING students’ time, experience, and knowledge.

1. Always end on time. Always. Yes, this is my top tip. Everyone is busy and has somewhere to be next. Being able to end on time requires preparation to teach, knowledge of the material, and ability to keep the class/meeting focused on the objectives for the lesson. Do you want students’ final thought about class to be “this disorganized idiot held me up for three minutes?”

2. Start on time. A late start is never a good excuse for ending late. Starting on time shows your preparation for the session and passion for the topic. At the start of class I feel like a sprinter on the blocks ready to blast off the line as soon as the second-hand gets back to zero. BAMMM!

Starting late regularly? Multiple the minutes late by the number of students in the room. Five minutes late x 25 students = 125 minutes of wasted time. Show you care. For giggles calculate that wasted time by the average hourly rate.

3. Never read anything. I had 12 weeks, one night a week for three hours per night, that was mostly the instructor reading to us from the textbook. I can read the book, handout, or PowerPoint slide as fast or faster than you can. If you can’t add anything to the slide simply wait for everyone to finish reading and click to the next slide.

4. Any reading more than 1 page should be read before or after class. Acceptable things to read in class – run report narratives, scenarios for patient assessment drills, quiz questions, agenda items, customer feedback surveys. If the meeting agenda is a four page outline, change those phrases into sentences and paragraphs and send it as an email, put in my mail box, or tape it to the truck door.

5. Challenge to demonstrate competence. A long-time EMT recently told me. “A Magill Forceps? I have never used one of those.” Never, not in a class, not in a practice session, and not in the field. She had heard more than a dozen instructors through the years talk about the Magill Forceps, but no one had ever challenged her to show that she could use it. Less than five minutes later she had used it for the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth time. If you know it, do it. If the student can do it either send them home or help them get better.

6. Ask students what they know. Ask questions like: What do you know about this? Have you seen this before? What does a patient with this look like? What do they sound like? What are the vital signs for this problem? What do you do when this happens? Get them to teach you and teach one another.

7. Think you know this? Then teach it. Of course, this can fail miserably, but dividing the group into teaching/learning stations is a good way to involve the experienced students with teaching and give inexperienced students opportunities to learn from multiple people. Give each team a skill and have them create a video demo of the skill. Need more ideas for group teaching? Ask in the comments.

8. Start the class with the written test. If everyone passes the test there are two likely reasons. One, you wrote easy quiz questions that tell you nothing about a student’s actual knowledge of the content. Or. Two, the student is competent. They know it. Send them home. Class over. Everyone is dismissed. Use your extra time to get better at writing quiz questions and learning how to design hands-on competency assessments.

9. Understand and manage cultural team dynamics. I regularly attend meetings of two groups. In one group the presenter is usually able to say about three sentences before being interrupted by multiple people in the audience. This will happen over and over until the speaker simply gives up and moves to the next agenda item or ends the meeting. This has been going on for years. In another meeting the audience never speaks without lots of prompting, cajoling, or commanding. Both of these organizations have a team culture that is sustained by nothing more than “this is the way we have always done it.”

10. Cancel. If you have nothing cancel the meeting or training. Never lead with … “our speaker canceled” or “I wasn’t able to prepare something for training tonight” or “I just thought we could talk about some recent calls” or “We are going to spend most of tonight’s meeting reading policies.”

Share your tips or classroom disrespect stories in the comments. Let’s make EMS Education better by making it first respect your time, knowledge, and experience.

Author note: this is my submission to the March 2010 edition of the Handover Blog carnival hosted by CKEMTP at This month’s theme was “Respect”. CK will be compiling all submissions into blog post. Thanks to CK for hosting and I am looking forward to reading the other submissions.

By Greg Friese

Greg Friese, Stevens Point, Wisconsin, is an author, educator, paramedic, and marathon runner.

Greg was the co-host of the award winning EMSEduCast podcast, the only podcast by and for EMS educators. Greg has written for,, Wilderness Medical Associates, JEMS Magazine, and EMS World Magazine, and the NAEMSE Educator Newsletter.