Air Methods Ascend Provides Effective EMS Education Combining Didactic and Hands-on Learning 


Data is Key to Continuous Improvement in Clinician Education  

“Anyone can cook, but only the fearless can be great,” said Auguste Gusteau in the movie, “Ratatouille.” Many say that about teaching. It may be possible for anyone to teach, but not everyone is a teacher. It takes passion to understand how adults learn and how to adapt educational content to different learning styles. My 15 years as a flight paramedic sparked my desire to share my experience with other professionals in emergency medical service (EMS). These dedicated clinicians must be ready to provide emergency interventions and stabilizing care under the most stressful and chaotic circumstances, including during transport by ambulance, fixed-wing aircraft, or helicopter. High-quality education programs, such as Air Methods Ascend, that use data to integrate safety and clinical excellence help ensure these clinicians have the skills and confidence they need to serve their patients.  


EMS education programs have a high bar to meet in preparing clinicians for service. Therefore, these programs must continuously monitor performance and apply data-driven improvements.  

A program like Air Methods Ascend gathers a wide range of data both in the classroom and in the field. This allows for meticulous analysis of results to establish and monitor quality metrics, understand trends, and identify root causes when issues arise. In turn, these findings can be applied to continuously enhance both in-person and online programs.  


Airway management is crucial to emergency medicine. When a patient is in crisis, emergency clinicians must quickly and adeptly assess the patient’s condition and take action to clear the airway, up to and including intubation.  

The Air Methods clinical team has achieved a first-attempt intubation success rate of 99%, which dramatically reduces the risk of further complications to patients. This high success rate is the result of thorough, ongoing program assessment.  

To achieve this, we identified a change in success rates with airway management. We proceeded to complete a deep analysis to identify potential causes: Was the change related to clinician experience or time since their last training or something else? After identifying variations in technique as the cause, we reviewed our care protocols and our training curriculum for intubation to implement improvements. With data-driven analysis at the helm of the Air Methods clinical team, we continually provide high-quality clinical education through the Ascend program.  


The review of education specific to intubation reinforced the importance of providing learners with engaging didactic training – not just boring, linear slide presentations – coupled with realistic hands-on practice. Hands-on experience using manikins and donor specimens, applied within a learning environment that embraces mistakes, helps clinicians improve skills, build muscle memory and gain confidence—a key element of the Ascend program. 

Ascend’s high-fidelity manikins, which are extremely realistic, are designed to interact and react as a real person experiencing a medical crisis. Manikins simulate clinical interactions with different types of patients, such as adult and pediatric patients, allowing clinicians to practice an entire care episode from meeting the patient, assessing their condition and symptoms, and proceeding with care, including performing procedures such as intubation.  

Proctored donor specimen labs provide the opportunity to perform a wide range of life-saving procedures, such as intubation or surgical airways, needle and tube thoracostomy, intraosseous needle placement, or emergent escharotomy. While many programs offer some access to donor specimens, the learner-to-specimen ratio is often as high as 40-to-1, giving people the opportunity only to observe. The better approach is to strictly limit ratios to 6-to-1, so that all learners have an opportunity to practice their skills. Ascend makes this possible.   


By meticulously monitoring quality, safety, and performance in the classroom and in the field, Ascend’s clinician education programs are at the forefront of employing evidence-based care protocols. With Ascend’s high-quality education programs that are engaging and cognizant of different learning styles, clinicians will gain the skills and confidence they need to provide life-saving care to their patients. In addition, offering high-quality, interactive training helps overcome today’s staffing challenges to attract and retain clinicians in EMS careers.  


Darrin Buchta is the Clinical Education Manager for Air Methods. He holds a Master’s in Adult Education and a Bachelor’s in Homeland Security and Public Safety. He is currently working towards earning a Bachelor’s in Nursing.