An Historical Examination of the Development of Emergency Medical Services Education in the US through Key Reports (1966-2014)

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Introduction The Emergency Medical Services (EMS) approach to emergency prehospital care in the United States (US) has global influence. As the 50-year anniversary of modern US EMS approaches, there is value in examining US EMS education development over this period. This report describes US EMS education milestones and identifies themes that provide context to readers outside the US. Method As US EMS education is described mainly in publications of federal US EMS agencies and associations, a Google search and hand searching of documents identified publications in the public domain. MEDLINE and CINAHL Plus were searched for peer reviewed publications. Documents were reviewed using both a chronological and thematic approach. Results Seventy-eight documents and 685 articles were screened, the full texts of 175 were reviewed, and 41 were selected for full review. Four historical periods in US EMS education became apparent: EMS education development (1966-1980); EMS education consolidation and review (1981-1989); EMS education reflection and change (1990-1999); and EMS education for the future (2000-2014). Four major themes emerged: legislative authority, physician direction, quality, and development of the profession. Conclusion Documents produced through broad interprofessional consultations, with support from federal and US EMS authorities, reflect the catalysts for US EMS education development. The current model of US EMS education provides a structure to enhance educational quality into the future. Implementation evaluation of this model would be a valuable addition to the US EMS literature. The themes emerging from this review assist the understanding of the characteristics of US EMS education. Brooks IA, Sayre MR, Spencer C, Archer FL.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)90-97
Number of pages8
JournalPrehospital and Disaster Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2016


  • Emergency Medical Services
  • Emergency Medical Technicians/education
  • United States

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