Tracey Barron

Academic Research

By Tracey Barron

When you’re hired for your first job in emergency communications, it might bring a sigh of relief after spending what seemed to be a lifetime searching for and finding the right job. And for the period of training and certification that follows, you morphed into an educational sponge, absorbing information from classes, mentors, peers, and, perhaps, webinars, covering the countless number of topics involved in your new career.

You were probably thrilled to finally go at it alone. “I made it. I’ll never have to take another test again or sit through another training course.”

But of course, you were wrong. After taking your first shift of calls without peer assistance, you realize that learning is even more important now than it was during the three-day certification course. To further your career, stay motivated, and enhance your ability as an Emergency Medical Dispatcher (EMD)/Emergency Fire Dispatcher (EFD)/Emergency Police Dispatcher (EPD), you need a structured action plan.

The more the plan is correlated to areas directly related to your areas of concern, the better it is for you and your willingness to participate.

Or, at least, those are the research findings presented in a poster for the annual contest sponsored by the International Academies of Emergency Dispatch (IAED) at the Academy’s NAVIGATOR 2015 conference in Las Vegas, Nev.

Linden Horwood, EMD-Q, Quality Auditor, Yorkshire Ambulance Service (YAS), NHS Trust, U.K., developed the poster resulting from her research into factors influential in motivating dispatchers (EMDs) and whether issues of non-compliance to protocols was skill, knowledge, or behavior based. She conducted a Web-based survey to determine the impact of continuing education and the type of lesson that would be most beneficial in improving performance.

Hands down, the EMD’s continuing dispatch education (CDE) was helpful. Overall, dispatchers were more likely to complete the assignment if mandatory. Taking on a task voluntarily depended on whether the EMD perceived the task as relevant and related to the EMD’s area of protocol compliance difficulty.

According to other study findings, CDE format also plays into a dispatcher’s favorable opinion. Face-to-face support, information handouts, and visual/caption-based CDEs are the highly preferred formats. A minority of EMDs in the study population would choose textbook training as the ideal approach to education.

Admittedly EMDs/EPDs/EFDs must earn CDE units to remain certified, maintain IAED membership, and, ultimately, keep their jobs. Compliance to the protocol also adds to a dispatcher’s confidence and diminishes concerns associated with non-compliance, such as punitive action plans.

Horwood said her interest, however, is directed at education that stimulates and is based on data collected by the agency.

“Audits produce a wealth of data, and it’s important to understand the information, using it to improve patient care and support EMDs,” said Horwood, who for the past eight years has been analyzing audit trends and developing CDEs based on her findings. “We should also make it a point to engage the dispatcher in education and create realistic expectations of what is required.”

Horwood’s background is not in research. She picked up a brochure about the poster research competition at UK NAVIGATOR 2013.

“I thought this would be ideal,” Horwood said. “With the Academy’s support, I took this forward.”

Horwood earned the best research poster award at UK NAVIGATOR 2014 for her initial research. The work caught the attention of other agencies, fueling her interest to further research specific practices to improve performance for EMDs, EFDs, and EPDs, and resulting in the follow-up submission.

“It’s all rather exciting seeing it come together and knowing it will help support other agencies,” Horwood said. “We’ve had an ambulance service contact us after seeing the poster on your [IAED Research and Informatics Division] website for support in developing a QI department.”

IAED’s Research and Informatics Division sponsors the annual poster contest at NAVIGATOR conferences to encourage research into the use of the emergency dispatch protocols and to submit research papers for possible publication in the IAED’s official peer-reviewed research journal, Annals of Emergency Dispatch & Response (AEDR).

For more information, visit: