Case Study: Introducing Prevue to a College Program

Case Study: Introducing Prevue to a College Program

Summary: Success of Prevue based program

  • Reduce dropout rates from by 50%
  • Incorporate student specific curriculum
  • Improve student placement success by over 40%

Several years ago, a study was undertaken with a community college in Ontario to develop benchmarks for the job roles available to paramedic graduates. The objectives of this study were:

  1. To allow a means of assessing current students and participating former students using Prevue for Job Fit;
  2. To create a potential screening tool for applying students;
  3. To use the findings to adapt in curriculum course content to meet the needs of the students whose job fit was less than ideal – particularly with regard to coping with the stress of poor job fit, and;
  4. To provide coaching feedback for students to assist them in making conscious choices about the best career choices for them.

The process involved the completion of Prevue by several classes of current students who were provided with individual coaching feedback as well as an in-class overview of the findings. A number of former students also participated on a voluntary basis – completing Prevue and allowing the use of current job performance ratings.

The community college was motivated to conduct this study by a number of factors which included:

  1. The demand for trained paramedics in the community is so great that literally every student trained has a job waiting;
  2. High dropout rate (approx. 40%) after first year by students who found this program was a poor fit for them;
    1. The impact of dropouts on the school revenue budget is significant.
  3. High failure rate of trained paramedics who fail to perform to the demands of the job resulting in:
    1. People leaving the profession;
    2. Poorer performers staying on in the job, with elevated stress levels due to poor job fit;
      1. Stress management in this role is critical due to the nature of the work, absenteeism/sick leave due to stress is an issue exacerbated by the incremental levels due to poor job fit.
  4. Competitive environment for students among the colleges offering the program – school’s reputation for graduates success at employment is a marketing tool when competing for suitable applying students.

In the same time frame as this study, a broader research study was conducted that reinforced the relevance of behavioural attributes in on-the-job success for paramedics. This study conducted among a statistically significant number of practicing paramedics had the following conclusions of interest:

  • Other than clinical competence, the most critical skills that were identified for success in these jobs roles and the skills that the profession was looking for more training and development opportunities were behavioural in nature.
    • Communications skills, including: dealing with difficult people, giving difficult feedback, defusing emotional situations, and ; providing clear and concise information while working in a highly charged environment.
    • Ability to evaluate a situation and analyze all factors to solve situational problems and make reasoned decisions;
    • Time management including the need to deal effectively with routine tasks such as inventory resupply and balance that with highly charged tasks such as emergency calls;
    • Attention to detail when working within a rapidly changing situation
    • Leadership skills in managing the scene where they are working;
    • Working effectively as a team with all involved professionals;
    • Self management skills including managing the emotional aspect of the work; and
    • Stress coping skills.

Clearly, the practicing paramedics were identifying the need for more attention to the best fit behaviours for paramedics and the ongoing emphasis on personal and professional development to help cope with the consequences of poor job fit for people in this profession.

The analysis of the student classes identified several key factors that were useful as a predictor of who would struggle with the role of paramedic. They include:

  • Lower results on Workng with Data and Organized was linked to paramedics who were chronically slower and mistake prone at resupplying their vehicle.
    • Impact: Crew wasn’t meeting their availability standards and missing essential supplies.
  • 70% of paramedics had a Conflict Style of Dominate or Avoid.
    • Impact: For paramedics with the Dominate style, they could resist taking direction from a supervising physician or miss issues with a patient that their colleague had information on but wasn’t being listened to. When both paramedics on a team were Dominant, conflict and a need to be right characterized their relationship
    • Impact: For paramedics with the Avoid style, they would not speak up to a more dominant colleague even if they had critical clinical information.
  • A significant number of paramedics scored in the lower range for the Emotional Style scales of Relaxed and Poised confirming poor stress coping skills both from their predisposition as well as the current state they are operating in.

The curriculum additions that were designed from this input included:

  1. A variety of stress management classes were added to each semester.
  2. Stress management was introduced into other courses that dealt with incident management and other non-clinical courses – the topic was discussed as a consequence of the job and recommended approaches to situations and debriefs that better prepared the paramedic for the more impactful situations.
  3. Time Management in the context of coordinating less urgent tasks, was added to each year – This paid particular attention to less urgent tasks that were still important determinants of success and redefined a successful paramedic as someone who could perform well at both the urgent calls as well as the background and, to them, boring tasks that maintained their level of readiness.
  4. Team Building course was introduced that put an emphasis on respect for people with different styles.
  5. Course content was enhanced with regard to dealing with difficult people in highly stressed situations – this also placed an emphasis on self awareness of the paramedic’s natural style and adapting to still maintain control of situations while responding appropriately to individuals at the scene including family members.

Finally, a feedback and coaching program was added for students that provided them with their personal feedback as well as the overall profile of their class. The group feedback allowed discussion on how to deal with people who were different from you. A one-on-one coaching series was also introduced that focused on developing self awareness and developing personal goals for coping with the behavioural aspect of the work.

Benchmarks were created for the various paramedic roles and potential applicants to the paramedic program were offered the opportunity to complete an assessment to help them in their decision making for program choice.

In the first three years, the students failing to return for their second year fell from 40% to 23%. The performance ratings for new paramedics as seen in the first year increased significantly.

In the future, the school would like to introduce a tool like Prevue into the application process – first to give feedback to applying student and ultimately to incorporate this into the actual selection process.

Written by contributing author, Lynne Wallace

Lynne Wallace is the managing director of The Assessment Coach, an authorized Prevue Distributor with offices in Etobicoke, Ontario, Canada.