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by Angel Burba, MS, NREMT-P, NCEE


Talk about putting oneself under a lot of pressure! As you probably know, NEMSEC (National EMS Educators Certification, Inc.) offered the Nationally Certified EMS Educator (NCEE) examination for the first time at the 2006 Symposia. At the time I was serving on this organization's BOD and I wanted to take the examination, so I chose to recluse myself from any test item development, test blueprinting, cut score setting, etc. Let’s face it; it was for pride more than anything else. I wanted to test my own mettle and I knew that if I took the exam after participating in any of these activities I would always question whether or not it was a clean pass. Fellow BOD Mickey Moore agreed and we each set out to prepare for the test. Long story short - WE BOTH PASSED and now both are Nationally Certified EMS Educators! Here is how I prepared for the exam. I believe that if you take a similar pathway you will be successful too.


Because this examination is meant to be taken by a “master educator” it is designed for someone with classroom experiences NOT somebody fresh out of an instructor course without teaching experience. Our own SERRP data suggests NAEMSE members have tons of classroom experience, but what is lacking for many is a background of formal education in teaching. My personal opinion is that while formal education is helpful, anyone who has gone through some serious self-study in education can be adequately prepared for this test.


Before you take offense at my opinions, please let me explain using observations from my own journey. I moved to Maryland in the mid-80s after I was discharged from the Navy. At the time I was “just an EMT” with less than 10 years experience in EMS. I was teaching Sunday school on the base, therapeutic swimming to kids with cerebral palsy and teaching CPR to the community. In all situations I received little or no formal education in the teaching process. I watched others who I thought were good and modeled myself after them. I also saw things I vowed I would never do in the classroom. In most cases the methods worked, but when they did not I lacked the ability to figure out what had gone wrong and what could be done differently to improve the next time around.


The BLS instructor credentialing process in Maryland is highly structured and requires a course in instructional techniques and methodologies, practice teaching, feedback evaluations and on-the-job mentoring before the actual instructor credential is awarded. It also requires continuing education, performance evaluations and classroom teaching time is completed every three years to maintain the certification. As my journey continued I added a master’s degree in EMS education from UMBC. It was through these formal education pathways where the experience blended with the theories and my skills in the classroom blossomed.


Many of you are perhaps in the same boat as I was in those earlier days; you have lots of classroom experience and time in the trenches applying the concepts but perhaps not a lot of fundamental knowledge in education methodology, principles and practices. If that is true for you, you can prepare for the examination on your own and should be able to walk into the test with a fairly high level of confidence you are ready if you do the following three steps:


Step 1: Begin by reading the 2002 Guidelines for Educating the EMS Instructor which is available at (national documents). Every test item in the bank is linked to this document. The Guidelines are written as a series of 23 modules in outline format. It is not a difficult read, particularly if you break it up over several sessions. As you read through the modules jot down any key terms or concepts that seem new, you feel you are rusty on or that just catch your eye. You can use this information to direct future study.


Step 2: Read some books about education. Start with NAEMSE’s Foundations of Education textbook. Because both projects (the 2002 DOT Guidelines and Foundations of Education) were written by the NAEMSE membership you can bet there is a lot of common ground here. The Foundations book fleshes out the topic areas and provides a lot of examples and support for the material covered in the Guidelines. Plus, where the guidelines chunked each topic area into an individual piece of content, the Foundations book put it into the context of using the material in the classroom setting and grouped it together into specific classroom settings like small group settings, large group settings, etc.. There are several other books, some specific to EMS education, but don’t overlook general education, education psychology, workforce development, or books that target specific areas of education like evaluation, learning styles, or classroom management.


Step 3: Take a journey through the Internet. Many college and university websites host pages with education topics and offer a wealth of information that is accessible to the public. Use the topics identified from steps 1 and 2 above as key terms to search. As always with the Internet, make sure your information is credible, but URLs with .edu or .gov in the address are generally pretty safe. Check out our partner organizations as well to see what they may contain. The ERIC database is another good source for information and can be accessed for free through a number of websites and portals.


Best of luck to you in your journey. Don’t be intimidated if you do not have a “formal” education. If you have experience, confidence in your abilities, and take time to prepare for the test as outlined you too should be able to pass the examination and then be able to put NCEE after your name!




  • NEMSEC was established in 2005. It was funded by a grant approved by the NAEMSE BOD in 2005. The NAEMSE organization, particularly the office staff, will continue to support the NEMSEC in its daily operations for the time being while the organization gets up and running. It is projected to be self-sufficient within the next 2-3 years. When it is fully operational, it will have a separate Executive Director and office staff from NAEMSE.

  • The NEMSEC has 11 BOD members serving on rotating terms. Bylaws and policies and procedures have been approved by the BOD.

  • The first instructor credential to be developed is for the “Master” level instructor. NEMSEC BOD approved criteria are in place and an application process is finalized which includes a completed application, 3 letters of recommendation, proof of EMS instruction, and an application fee.

  • The first examination was offered in September, 2006. Sixteen individuals took the examination and fifteen passed on the first attempt.

  • The NEMSEC exam was given twice during the NAEMSE 2007 Symposia in Los Angeles for September 13, 2007 at 3:00 PM and 4:15 PM on September 14, 2007.

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