NECC’s Dean of Health has a Passion for Paramedicine
In his “day job”, Scott Lancaster, NECC’s dean of health professions, provides leadership for the college’s 22 associate degree and certificate programs leading to careers in health care.
On his days off, he pursues his passion for emergency medicine, working 24-hour shifts every other weekend as a paramedic for the Amherst (NH) Fire Department.
Emergency medical providers are in great demand in our area, and Lancaster recently shared his thoughts on the field, including its biggest challenges, common misconceptions, and the most rewarding aspects of a career in this field.
He was just elected to a three-year term on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Emergency Medical Service Educators (NAEMSE), an organization which represents those working in higher education, trade/technical programs, hospitals, fire departments, and more, and he is hoping to have a positive impact on the field as a result of his new leadership role.
Lancaster has a bachelor’s and master’s in health care management and a PhD from Simmons University.
Why do you think EMS education is important?
Paramedicine, or EMS, is the gateway to healthcare for millions of people a year. Be it an acute medical emergency, an accident, or serving those without access to other medical care. EMS providers must be up-to-date on current treatments, pharmacological therapies, operational needs, and often are providing care alone without direct oversite in the moment of treatment. To be an expert in this profession, providers need in-depth and comprehensive initial education and robust continuing education throughout their careers. Medicine changes rapidly, and providers need to be life-long learners.
Is there a demand for emergency medical providers?
YES! Actually, we are currently seeing a shortage of providers in many areas of the country, including in our area. Many companies are providing funding for education, and offering signing bonuses for new employees.
What are the biggest challenges facing emergency medicine today?
I think funding is one area that needs attention. The largest payer for care is CMS (Center’s for Medicare / Medicaid Services) and their payment levels continue to contract verses inflation, and, as a result, they under-reimburse the actual cost of care. This leads to challenges in funding EMS agencies, purchasing equipment and increasing salaries for EMS providers. I personally believe that the funding issue is directly tied, at least in part, to paramedic education requirements. While degrees have become the minimal entry-to-practice norm throughout the rest of healthcare, paramedicine lags behind. It has been found that increased education leads to improvement in patient outcomes in other health professions, and Paramedicine needs to get on board. Thankfully, we offer an Associate Degree in Paramedic Technology at NECC!
What will your priorities be as a member of the board?
Improving access to robust, quality education for providers across the country. If there’s one thing we have learned throughout this pandemic, it’s that remote education can be very well done, and that it improves access to those in rural areas, or without the funds to travel to conferences. I want to encourage stakeholder groups to pursue improvements in the breadth of remote education, and to allow more remote education to be allowed for re-certification.
What led you to become a paramedic?
When I got out of the U.S. Coast Guard, I was already an EMT, and honestly I went into EMS at that level while I decided what I wanted to be when I grew up! That was 1999…
After I started working in EMS, I fell in love with the job. I went to school to be a paramedic the following year and I have been practicing ever since.
You continue to work as a paramedic, while you have a high level administrative career, why?
I love the job. It’s really that simple. When I first came to NECC, I didn’t work as a paramedic for a couple of years. I obviously stayed involved in the profession by educating future paramedic providers, but I wasn’t “on the streets”. I was teaching a critical care paramedic class in New Hampshire and one of my students told me that his fire department was in real need of paramedics and that town is only 15 minutes from my home. I put in an application and started working as a paramedic there almost four years ago, usually working a 24-hour shift every other weekend (though I do take breaks occasionally).
What has been the most rewarding experience in your career as a paramedic?
Wow, that’s a hard one to answer. I have been involved in many incidents over the past 20 something years… I think the most rewarding experiences aren’t the calls that make the news, or the ones that are ‘bad’ because the patients are the sickest; those are the ones that are the most challenging mentally and physically.
The most rewarding calls are the ones where patients feel reassured and thankful. Often, those are the calls that are what I would consider pretty low-acuity, but for the patient and/or their family they are real emergencies. Making them comfortable, maybe even putting a smile on their face, at times is harder than providing ‘perfect care’. When you can do both, and they acknowledge their gratitude, that is rewarding.
What do you wish people knew about paramedicine, that they don’t know?
That it’s not like Hollywood. It’s not all adrenaline, it’s not all lights and sirens and carnage. Those events happen, but they are not the norm. Those looking for an adrenaline-pumping job can find the profession unfulfilling and often leave the field. Realistic expectations about the job, that’s what I wish people knew.
What advice do you have for someone interested in Paramedicine?
Come on down and talk to us! The EMS Program Coordinator, David Weber JD, NRP would love to talk to you about the profession, or educational offerings and programs. Really, if someone is interested, they should talk to those who actively work in the field, get an idea of the profession and what a day-on-the-job looks like. Then, SIGN UP!