Cheating

So the Baltimore Fire Department shuts down it’s EMS training program after evidence of cheating surfaces.

I applaud the effort, but fear that the damage may have already been done. What happened was that a single instructor passed out scenarios to students. Apparently the instructor knew that those scenarios would be on the exam, but the students didn’t. WBAL in Baltimore reports a set of skill stations being handed out as a packet. This sounds an awful lot like the NREMT skills packets. These are legal to distribute according to NREMT (I disagree with this, but it is what it is) but he must have distributed something else in addition to those NREMT packets. They focused in on him because he is the only one with credentials to access State of Maryland testing materials, which are confidential.

Also according to the articles, the trainees didn’t know these were actual test questions, so they are held blameless. They will be retested.

How long has this been going on in EMS training as a whole? We see it frequently in CPR courses, where instructors basically nurse people through the written test. It can even be seen if you are acting as an evaluator for skills stations, they will nurse people through a checklist with non-verbal cues. I’m not one of those people, as often seen by the looks of disappointment on the faces of students that have had CPR classes before. No easy breaks here, and for good reason. I see cheating as the supreme sin of education, and especially in EMS education. We give people so many chances to pass that cheating shouldn’t even be necessary, NREMT and pretty much every state has kind of a “3 strikes” testing policy, if you fail today, you get 2 more chances. It’s ok if you don’t know, just take your lumps, figure out what you don’t know, and come back later.

We are responsible for the well-being of people in trouble, they call us, and expect men and women with real skills and real education and training to show up and deal with the problem in a professional manner. What does it say when they find out we cheated? I compare it to professional athletes that cheated on their SAT tests (or never took them at all, or got illegal help) but still get to play in the big game, so out and make their money playing when they never should have been allowed into college in the first place. Yeah, in my mind, cheating on something as simple as CPR or as complicated as the Paramedic level exam is the same thing. If you had to cheat to pass, you cheapen the sacrifices made by those who didn’t, who spent hours of study when they could have been out with their buddies. If you had to cheat to pass, you don’t deserve the spot you hold because you didn’t put in the effort to earn it.

  • I couldn’t possibly agree more. In regard to what was contained in the packets and the comparison to NREMT, my guess would be that the scenario packet describes the extent of the patients injuries as well as their response to any interventions. ITLS scenarios include that information, so I don’t see that as being to far of a stretch. I am often chided for not giving an easy pass on the scenarios when I teach the ITLS course, there’s a test for a reason… stop playing angry birds and actually try to learn something.

  • I couldn’t possibly agree more. In regard to what was contained in the packets and the comparison to NREMT, my guess would be that the scenario packet describes the extent of the patients injuries as well as their response to any interventions. ITLS scenarios include that information, so I don’t see that as being to far of a stretch. I am often chided for not giving an easy pass on the scenarios when I teach the ITLS course, there’s a test for a reason… stop playing angry birds and actually try to learn something.

  • Re: “These are legal to distribute according to NREMT”Not only is it legal, they post the exact pdf skills sheets online for anyone to view https://www.nremt.org/nremt/about/psychomotor_exam_emt.asp

  • Re: “These are legal to distribute according to NREMT”Not only is it legal, they post the exact pdf skills sheets online for anyone to view https://www.nremt.org/nremt/about/psychomotor_exam_emt.asp

  • Too Old To Work

    I haven’t read that the cadets themselves didn’t know that they weren’t supposed to have the skill sheets. If so, that changes things a bit. Still, it seems that more than one instructor was involved since the city has suspended all of them pending investigation.

    As Jeff Zaffino writes, the NREMT (and PHTLS and ITLS) skill sheets the students have are not nearly as detailed as the scenario sheets the instructor/examiners have. While the skill sheets tell the students what skills they will be tested on, such as splinting, C-Spine, bandaging, etc., the scenario sheets list injuries, history, vital signs, etc…

    • I don’t think they knew until AFTER the test. If any other instructors knew
      is probably why they shut it down so they could investigate all the angles,
      but it seems that only 1 instructor is responsible because he is the only
      one who had access.

      —–Original message—–

  • Too Old To Work

    I haven’t read that the cadets themselves didn’t know that they weren’t supposed to have the skill sheets. If so, that changes things a bit. Still, it seems that more than one instructor was involved since the city has suspended all of them pending investigation.

    As Jeff Zaffino writes, the NREMT (and PHTLS and ITLS) skill sheets the students have are not nearly as detailed as the scenario sheets the instructor/examiners have. While the skill sheets tell the students what skills they will be tested on, such as splinting, C-Spine, bandaging, etc., the scenario sheets list injuries, history, vital signs, etc…

    • I don’t think they knew until AFTER the test. If any other instructors knew
      is probably why they shut it down so they could investigate all the angles,
      but it seems that only 1 instructor is responsible because he is the only
      one who had access.

      —–Original message—–