Practice Your Craft

When was the last time you practiced your craft. I mean deliberately practiced accessing and using your knowledge and skills. I’m not talking about running calls. When I say practice I use the word in the literal sense. Deliberately simulating how you wish to perform and repeating the physical skill again and again.

We have an interesting view of the value of practice in EMS. We encourage practice in EMT and Paramedic training programs (or at least we should). We bring in mannequins and create scenarios and we gather around and practice. We practice sticking IVs, doing head-to-toe assessments, bandaging wounds, placing people in c-spine, using a BVM, inserting an airway, basically any physical skill is fair game for practice.

Then we stop. With the possible exception of the occasional scenario-based training, we no longer practice the physical skills associated with our jobs. We may do a little CPR once every two years. We may stop by the training center and use the BVM on an airway mannequin. But, for the most part, once we’ve got it, we’ve got it. It’s almost looked at as a sign of weakness or deficiency if we practice our C-spine procedures, assessment techniques or splinting procedures.

For the most part we’re far more comfortable snoozing through power point lectures in sit-and-get continuing education formats. I bring this up for several reasons.

For one, nobody else does this. Cops and soldiers qualify on their weapons but then they continue to go to the shooting range and and send round after round down range. Nobody wonders if they are deficient in their marksmanship because they practice. Virtuoso musicians practice their craft daily. Surgeons practice critical procedures. Athletes practice their craft again and again.

You’d never see a world class sprinter say, “Oh yeah…I just run fast in a straight line. Got it.” No sniper ever says, “OK, I figured out the whole shoot straight thing. No need to belabor the point.” But we do that, don’t we? Most of our skills are viewed as a learn it, do it, got it type thing.

The second reason I bring this up is because we’re so bad at so many of our skills. When I wander around out there in the EMS prehospital world, I’m fortunate to encounter some of the top EMS practitioners anywhere. I’m honored to work with them. And I still encounter a lot of bad medicine. From simple things like blood pressures to our vital bread-and-butter skill sets like BVM use we do our skills poorly. In fact, for some skills like BVM use, bad technique is the norm.

And I bring this up because I often wonder how much better we could be if we practiced.

What do you think about that?


  1. Great article and point. I have been worried about this lately. I am knew to the EMS field but, already seen too much of this first hand. The practice that does exist is not taken seriously by anyone. Do you have any suggestions for policies or procedures that may help mitigate this problem (It may make a great follow up article idea).

  2. I believe proper ventilation with a BVM is one of the hardest skills to perform. It is one of the easiest to learn but It is often done improperly. I am more confident in intubating someone then properly ventilating them with a BVM.

  3. I am an educator here at Heritage College. I absolutely love this article and will be passing it along! You are so right on many levels. With the way health care is evolving, we need to stay up to par with our skills. I make my students practice, practice, practice, but once they leave school there is nothing I can do. The internet has made it to easy to obtain those CEU’s. It should be required that there is more structural hands on for recertification, not to mention ambulance services and hospitals should require quarterly training.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I am having trouble coming up with some new training ideas in our department, we enjoy hands on training, but the same old stuff has become monotonous. Any new/different training ideas, or maybe some direction as to where I could find some training information