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State-specific test may boost EMT ranks

Rep. Brad Roae thinks returning to a Pennsylvania-specific EMT and paramedic exam will help boost the number of first responders in the state.

Roae, R-Crawford/Erie, proposes requiring the state Health Department to create a state exam for written and computer tests for EMTs, EMRs and paramedics. Such a move would return the state to the way such tests were handled before 2013, when the state exam was eliminated and students began taking a national registry exam.

“PA students have a lower passing rate on the National Registry exam because the scope of practice nationally is greater that what Pennsylvania laws and regulations allow,” Roae wrote in his legislative memorandum. “Some instructors are not teaching students to do things they cannot legally do in Pennsylvania but there are still questions on the National Register exam on those skills. For example, in other states EMTs can start an IV but in PA they cannot. However, PA students still have to answer questions about starting an IV when taking the National Register exam. A PA Department of Health exam would only include questions about things that EMTs in Pennsylvania can actually do.”

In Pennsylvania, the number of firefighters is estimated to be between 36,000 and 38,000, according to a December Associated Press report. The state does not require fire departments to report the number of volunteers. The number of volunteer firefighters is estimated at 30,000. In 1975, that number was 360,000, according to The National Volunteer Fire Council and the state Department of Community and Economic Development.

Roae said one avenue to possibly increase the number of first responders is to test specifically for Pennsylvania’s needs instead of national standards.

“Virtually every EMS provider in the state, both career and volunteer, are in the need of more emergency responders,” Roae wrote. “Having test questions limited to what EMTs, EMRs and paramedics in Pennsylvania are actually allowed to do should increase the exam passing rate and increase the number of emergency responders.”

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