Art Braunschweiger

Art Braunschweiger


By Art Braunschweiger

Staying in shape is good for you. Two of my fellow dispatchers go to a gym regularly. Another has been pushing for a treadmill at his console ever since he saw one at a NENA conference. (Walk a mile or two while you’re dispatching . . . what a concept.) It’s strange, if you think about it: We go someplace on our own time when we could be doing something else, and we pay for the privilege of exerting ourselves when we don’t have to—often getting hot and sweaty in the process. We do it because it’s good for us and for the results we can see and feel.

Before you conclude that this is a boring article on fitness or nutrition, it’s not. It is a wake-up call about something we shun even more often than exercise or eating right: getting enough education on the protocols and ProQA. That’s especially important given how far ProQA has evolved. The Academy considers that, beginning as of the year 2000, the full expression and content of the MPDS—soon to be followed by the FPDS and PPDS—can only be fully represented within the automated (ProQA) version of these protocols. By that time, ProQA had evolved to the point where it was no longer possible to duplicate manually what the software could accomplish through its increasingly complex protocol algorithms. In addition, the protocols themselves now address so many specialized situations that the EMD using Medical ProQA will sometimes be able to handle what first responders are untrained for, as happened at Union County Regional Communications (N.J.) when on-scene officers were guided through a very difficult breech birth with Pre-Arrival Instructions relayed through the caller.

Herein lies the problem. The increasing sophistication of the protocols and ProQA mean that you run a serious risk of not being able to handle a critical and rapidly unfolding situation if you don’t train for it and don’t keep up on your protocol knowledge. Passive learning is not enough; you have to go after the knowledge you need. It’s not enough to simply read the comments on your call review and tell yourself you’ll do better next time. There is no such thing as “ProQA for Dummies.” With Key Question answer choices in MPDS version 13.0 like “Cervical cerclage (stitch),” you can’t afford to be ignorant of the definitions, terms, Rules, and Axioms that are fundamental to protocol use.

Recently, three of the dispatchers on my shift asked me if we could get together for some advanced ProQA training. Our manager approved the overtime, they all came in on their day off, and we spent three hours putting ProQA through its paces by going through pathways and permutations that they might encounter in choking, childbirth, and other challenging situations. Everyone attending not only wanted to do it again but requested it on a monthly basis.

Traditionally, continuing dispatch education (CDE) flows from the top down: The Quality Improvement Unit or training staff decides on what the dispatchers need, and they push out education in its various forms. But if you’re a dispatcher, you need to take the initiative as well. Take five minutes during your morning coffee break to review a protocol card or its Additional Information section. Re-run a call you had and explore some of the other pathways you might take next time. Get together with your peers to request some advanced training or even just time off the floor as a group to challenge each other with scenarios.

A little time at the “ProQA gym” will keep you in better shape for those times that 911 demands more of you. Your callers are counting on you. Keep in shape with the protocols for their sake, if not for yours.

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