Our paramedic program consists of four components of instruction: didactic instruction, skills laboratory, clinical education, and field internship. The first three typically occur concurrently, and the field internship serves as a verification that our student is serving as a competent, entry level practitioner. The didactic session typically lasts five months for the 12-month program and twelve months for the 18-month program. Clinical and field work each are approximately three months in duration for both programs.
The didactic instruction represents the delivery of primarily cognitive material. Although this is sometimes delivered as lecture material, Cowley instructors utilize alternate delivery methods, such as the flipped classroom, to maximize student learning. The flipped classroom utilizes online lectures that students watch prior to attending class. Students and faculty can then discuss the topics covered in the online presentations and apply the concepts in a contextual setting. Other methods of instruction used include: formative quizzes (clickers), video, discussion, demonstration, group projects, simulation, etc. The continued development and increased sophistication of computer aided instruction offers many options for both the instructors and students.
The skills laboratory is the section of the curriculum which provides the student with the opportunity to develop the psychomotor skills of the paramedic. The skills laboratory is integrated into the curriculum in such a way as to present skills in a sequential, building fashion. Initially, the skills are typically taught in isolation, and then integrated into simulated patient care situations. Toward the latter part of the program, the skills lab are used to present instructional scenarios to emphasize the application and integration of didactic and skills into patient management. Mid and high fidelity simluation is utilized throughout the program to prepare students to successfully care for patients.
Because we value component skill training and patient scenario management, we have added facilities to achieve that goal.
See our laboratory training areas here and here.
Clinical education represents the most important component of paramedic education since this is where the student learns to synthesize cognitive and psychomotor skills. Clinical education integrates and reinforces the didactic and skills laboratory components of the program. Clinical instruction follows sound educational principles, is logically sequenced to proceed from simple to complex tasks, has specific objectives, and is closely supervised and evaluated. Students are not simply sent to clinical environments with poorly planned activities and be expected to benefit from the experience -- we plan for and desire student success and excellence.
The Cowley faculty strongly believe that the ability to serve in the capacity of an entry level paramedic requires experience with actual patients. This process enables the student to build a database of patient experiences which serves to help in clinical decision making and pattern recognition. Cowley requires a specific number of hours to be completed in certain clinical areas to meet the Board of EMS regulations and, more importantly, has established minimum amounts of patient contacts and skill utilization.
Typically, clinical education for the paramedic takes place in both the hospital and field environments:
Because of the unpredictable nature of emergency medicine, the hospital environment offers two advantages in paramedic education: volume and specificity. In the hospital setting, the paramedic student can see many more patients than is possible in the field. This is a very important component in building up a "library" of patient care experiences to draw upon in clinical decision making.
The use of multiple departments within the hospital enables the student to see an adequate distribution of patient situations. In addition to emergency departments, which most closely approximate the types of patients that paramedics should see, our clinical education takes advantage of critical care units, obstetrics, operating rooms/anesthesia, recovery, pediatrics, psychiatric, etc. This will help assure a variety of patient presentations and complaints. These also provide a more holistic view of healthcare and provides the paramedic student with an appreciation for the care that their patients will undergo throughout their recovery.
The Cowley paramedic program uses many different hospitals (large and small) to provide these clinical experiences.
Clinical Facilities Used by Cowley Paramedic Students
The final ability to integrate all of the didactic, psychomotor skills, and clinical instruction into the ability to serve as an entry level paramedic is conducted during the field internship phase of the program. Early in the field internship, it is considered an instructional situation; later in internship it becomes an evaluative phase of the program. The field internship occurs at the end of the program. During the field internship the student "works" with a certified paramedic responding to emergency calls at one of our five internship sites.
EMS Organizations Used by Cowley Paramedic Students
The field internship typically has three phases, each with progressively increased responsibilities. It is unreasonable to expect students to derive benefit from being placed directly into a field environment after didactic completion. In general, students progress from observer to participant to team leader. The amount of time that a student will have to spend in each phase will be variable and depend on many individual factors. One of the largest factors will be the amount and quality of previous emergency care experience. With the trend toward less and less EMT experience prior to paramedic education, the Cowley faculty will individualize the amount of field experience to the experience of the students.