Tests are big these days. "High stakes" testing. No Child Left Behind. All sorts of tests.
EMS is no different. Or is it?
At the end of my EMT-B class, we had to pass a practical test before being allowed to take the written test. Same with the EMT-I class.
People stressed out over the practical test. Came in extra hours to practice. Made cheat sheets to read over before going in to test.
After that, there was a week or two before the written test. People studied like mad. Did practice tests.
There's nothing wrong with that, on the face of it. If you have a test, it's good to study for it, right?
The problem has to do with how people relate to tests overall, the history they have with them. Most people are at least somewhat uncomfortable with tests.
By the time they become an EMT, most people have had quite a few years (12 or 13 or more) experience with testing in an academic setting, most often public schools. In that setting, tests are for assigning grades to the student. People cram for the test, take it, and then, may or may not remember anything on the test. If you were to give them the exact same text a month later, many people who passed the first, would not pass the second. A year later? Who are you kidding?
In EMS, we can't take that approach to learning.
We have to learn the material so well that we actually know it, and can apply it in stressful situations.
And to top it off, we never know when we will be tested, or what topic that particular test will cover.
Instead of cramming for exams, we should focus on learning things well enough that exams don't phase us at all. If you make a mistake on an exam, you may not pass. If you make a mistake on scene, the results could be far, far worse. Yet people often have more anxiety about a test.
Here's what I think:
If you know your skills, your protocols, your ability to assess a patient so well that anytime, day or night, in any conditions, no matter how long it has been since you last were tested, or last had a call, you can perform those skills flawlessly, you've done a great job keeping yourself prepared. Likewise, if someone could pick you up at any time and give you the practical exam or written exam you took to become certified, and it doesn't worry you, you fly right through it without a doubt.
If not, if you forget things, or hesitate, or stumble, then you need to put more effort into keeping your skills and knowledge fresh.
I don't know anyone, even my favorite medics, who are perfect.
I doubt such a person exists.
That suggests that we ALL need to keep refreshing ourselves, constantly. Some people may be highly competent, and only need to read through some things every now and then, or spend a few minutes practicing a skill. Others may need to make up for areas that were not taught well in the first place. Most are probably somewhere in between.