As a health science curriculum developer, we often hear from teachers looking for Emergency Medical Responder (EMR) curriculum for their classes. With many students choosing careers in Emergency Medical Services (EMS), your EMR curriculum must keep pace with this demand and your changing needs.
The National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) emergency medical responder (EMR) certification evaluates a student’s proficiency in the skills and knowledge needed to respond to emergency calls, assist those who need medical attention, and perform basic lifesaving procedures. They also assist emergency medical service (EMS) personnel such as emergency medical technicians and paramedics. In addition, EMRs don’t necessarily have to be dedicated medical professionals. Many police officers, firefighters, and even park rangers are trained EMRs since they may be the first emergency personnel to respond to a call. That makes EMRs a critical part of the EMS response team! So how can you help your students pass the NREMT EMR exam to become certified EMRs? On this page, you’ll learn the details of what’s on the NREMT EMR exam and how to prepare students for exam day. First, let’s discuss the NREMT since they provide the certification! What Is the NREMT? The NREMT is a non-profit organization considered to be “the nation’s emergency medical services certification organization.” The NREMT’s mission is to protect the public by ensuring EMS professionals can effectively work in the field. To accomplish this, the NREMT has developed certifications for four EMS professions, including the National EMR Certification! Now that you know a little bit about the NREMT, let’s get into the details of the EMR certification! How Is the NREMT EMR Certification Exam Structured? The NREMT EMR exam is made up of a cognitive exam and psychomotor exam. The cognitive exam is a computer-based test that measures a student’s knowledge of the National EMS Educational Standards laid out by the federal government. Exams could contain anywhere from 60 to 80 questions with 30 unscored “pilot questions” the NREMT uses to gather data. These questions fall under six content areas found on the National EMS Educational Standards: Airway Management, Respiration, and Artificial Ventilation Medicine Shock and Resuscitation Trauma Special Patient Populations EMS Operations Each content area is further organized into “sections” and “competencies:” “Sections” are the major topics that further elaborate on the overarching knowledge area “Competencies” are the individual concepts and skills within each section This is what you can expect from each section of the cognitive exam. 1. Airway Management, Respiration, and Artificial Ventilation The Airway, Respiration, and Ventilation content area measures a student’s understanding of human respiratory issues. This area includes 11 competencies across three sections: Airway Management Respiration Artificial Ventilation These competencies relate to airway assessment, supplemental oxygen therapy, and different types of artificial ventilation. Overall, it’s crucial for an EMR to have the knowledge and skills necessary to keep a patient breathing while additional EMS workers respond to the scene. 2. Medicine The Medicine content area evaluates a student’s ability to recognize and manage threats to a patient’s life during a medical emergency when waiting for assistance from other EMS providers. This area includes 19 competencies across 13 sections: Medical Overview Neurology Abdominal and Gastrointestinal Disorders Immunology Infectious Diseases Endocrine Disorders Psychiatric Cardiovascular Toxicology Respiratory Genitourinary/Renal Gynecology Diseases of the Eyes, Ears, Nose, and Throat The competencies revolve around an EMR’s ability to recognize medical incidents such as cardiac arrest, diabetic emergencies, anaphylactic reactions, and seizures. Because EMRs are often the first people on scene during potential medical emergencies, they’re the first medical professionals to evaluate a patient’s status and determine the proper short-term treatment. 3. Shock and Resuscitation The Shock and Resuscitation content area is one of the simplest portions of the EMR exam. Rather than sections and competencies, this area lists two main focuses: Recognizing shock, respiratory failure, respiratory arrest, and cardiac arrest Managing emergencies until additional response professionals arrive Though this content area is short, it covers one of the most important roles of an EMR. Recognizing and managing these life-threatening emergencies makes a huge difference when every second counts. 4. Trauma The Trauma content area evaluates students on recognizing and managing life-threatening trauma. This area includes 22 competencies across nine sections: Bleeding Chest Trauma Abdominal and Genitourinary Trauma Orthopedic Trauma Soft Tissue Trauma Head, Facial, Neck, and Spine Trauma Special Considerations in Trauma Environmental Emergencies Multi-System Trauma Even though an EMR is not responsible for the long-term treatment of an acutely injured patient, their initial assessment of someone’s needs and management of the trauma is essential to a victim’s survival. Lacerations, blunt force, burns, and more can all constitute some degree of trauma. Students must know the tell-tale signs of these injuries if they’re going to successfully keep someone alive until they can be transported to a hospital. 5. Special Patient Populations The Special Patient Populations content area tests a student’s ability to recognize and manage individuals with special considerations. This area includes 12 competencies across five sections: Obstetrics Neonatal Care Pediatrics Geriatrics Patients with Special Challenges Age is perhaps the most common factor that impacts an EMR’s short-term treatment options. Some emergencies (such as airway obstruction) are managed differently in pediatric patients than adult patients. It’s also important for EMRs to practice special considerations for pregnant women and those who may have diagnosed behavioral challenges. 6. EMS Operations EMS Operations tests a student’s knowledge of the operational roles and responsibilities among emergency medical service providers. This area has 10 competencies across six sections: Principles of Safely Operating a Ground Ambulance Incident Management Multiple Casualty Incidents Air Medical Vehicle Extrication Hazardous Materials Awareness Mass Casualty Incidents These include responsibilities like emergency response, triage principles, and the risks of operating on the scene of a disaster. Having knowledge of these roles and responsibilities helps every EMR work more effectively with other EMS providers to maintain a safe environment for everyone involved. The EMR Psychomotor Exam After passing the cognitive exam, students must take the psychomotor exam. This section of the test is a hands-on skills assessment of common incidents an EMR may encounter in the field. Surprisingly, this exam is not administered by the NREMT. Instead, the state EMS office or an affiliated training institution provides an instructor to evaluate the psychomotor exam. The NREMT has example performance checklists to help students learn what to expect from the psychomotor exam, including: Trauma assessment and management Medical emergency assessment and management BVM ventilation of an apneic adult patient Oxygen administration by non-rebreather mask Cardiac arrest management However, the NREMT notes that the performance checklists used during the actual exam may differ, depending on the person’s local EMS office. Once a student completes their psychomotor exam, they receive their unofficial results of pass / fail instantly. The official exam results are posted on their NREMT account within four weeks. If they’ve passed, they are officially certified to work as an EMR! So, now that you know the details of the NREMT EMR exam, there’s one last question -- how do you prepare your students for success? How Do You Prepare Students for the NREMT EMR Certification Exam? When you want to help students earn a certification, you always want official test prep materials from the certification provider! Unfortunately, the NREMT doesn’t provide an official study guide. Still, you can find dozens of unofficial options online. Because these materials don’t come from the NREMT, they could miss important information that students need to know. On top of that, exclusively teaching to the test can hurt your students’ long-term information retention! If you teach an entire class according to a single certification exam, you’ll also miss important foundational information which may not be on a test, but still essential for EMRs to know. That’s why it’s smart to take a two-step approach when preparing students for the NREMT EMR exam: Teach your EMR curriculum Supplement with test prep materials Start by teaching the foundational skills and concepts found on the National EMS Educational Standards. Those standards include the detailed competencies found on the exam, plus additional information every EMR must know for a successful career. It’s also important to discuss your own professional experience as an EMS provider to show real-world context for EMRs. In addition, it’s smart to incorporate soft skills like communication and professionalism to help your students hone their interpersonal skills for working with patients and colleagues. Near the end of your semester, throw in some practice exams and study materials to see how ready your students are for test day. This two-step approach will help you teach the knowledge and skills needed for success on the NREMT EMR exam and in their future careers! To make this process work, you need to seamlessly tie all of the pieces together in your classroom. Some teachers do this by building their own EMR curriculum from scratch. This is an excellent way to provide a customized learning experience for your students. But creating lessons, activities, and assessments all on your own could take an entire summer of planning (or longer)! That’s why dozens of EMR instructors have implemented a digital curriculum system to do the heavy lifting when it comes to planning and preparing students for the NREMT EMR exam!
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