Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Professionalization Of Emergency Services

Once upon a time if you wanted to be a cop, a firefighter or a paramedic the process was easy. You either did or did not meet the minimum requirements, you wrote a test and did a physical. If you passed all of the above, you moved on and your score mattered - none of this "Meets Standard" and "Does Not Meet Standard" ambiguity. From there you were interviewed and you may receive the offer of employment from there.

Things are different now, that was a much simpler time.

Not only have recruitment practices changed but so has the industry itself. Police, Fire and EMS have become profressionalized. Professionalization is the concept that these first responder careers have been established and given the status of a profession. Much like medicine, there is a set of standards and practices that give medicine a professional status. So, where does this come from? Emergency services are notoriouly decentralized, being spread across various municipalities, regions, provincial and federal jurisdictions in addition to varying levels of independence. This was not considered acceptable and various methods were introduced to varying success in an effort to create a professional status amongst first responders. The concept of professionalizing emergency services began in 1931 with the Wickersham Commision, continued onto 1967 and 1973 in seperate movements. I won't bore you with the scholarly research but the point is that only during the last 30 years (1980 to present) most emergency services were well behind the times with recruitment practices. A desire to recruit "the best" and to establish the status of a profession drives up the standard of what is expected from recruits. This is most evident in Canada from 1998 to present with the introduction of the Constable Selection System in Ontario for Police.

So, yes the minimum requirements have remained the same but that doesn't mean only holding those qualifications is enough. In fact, they're not. Education, volunteering, skills and courses are required to be recognized as "the best" (read: most qualified). This now leads us to the latest problem of most professions and academia alike: credentialism.

Next week I'm going to write about credentialism as a product of the professionalization of emergency service and how credentialism is affecting recruits.

Like always, hop on the forum or email me directly with your questions!

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