Author: Douglas Richardson, Paramedic, BS-PSM
Concept maps are a visual representation of ideas and actions and how they interrelate. They help students see the connection between assessment, diagnostic tools, treatment and transport. They allow educators to confirm that concepts are taking hold in our students. To help you learn how to use this valuable tool, let’s make a sample map for Prehospital Cardiac Chest Pain. (See Concept Mapping as a Classroom Assessment Technique – Part I for more details about concept mapping.)
Start with simple a box in the middle of our paper, whiteboard or computer screen that says, “Prehospital Cardiac Chest Pain.”
To build out the map, we need to think about what we want to do to our chest pain patient. We want to assess them, use some specific diagnostic tools, treat them, we may want to perform some specific procedures and then transport them. For our map, we will make a box for each of these items and will group them together in a hierarchy where the most important concepts are groups on a primary level, followed by a secondary level, etc.
As you build the boxes, you do not have to worry about putting them in a particular order. In reality, when we start assessing a chest pain patient we might also be using a diagnostic tool – pulse oximetry – and based on that, immediately jump to the treatment – putting the patient on oxygen – then jump back to pick up our assessment again. The concept map is much more organic than an algorithm, making it almost exactly like the way we treat patients.
With our primary layer in place, we can move to the next level by adding specific assessment tools, procedures and transport options as illustrated below.
Now, we can put in details about the routine cardiac care or specific vitals. We can also add another layer to show treatments or decisions that we may not make until later in our assessment.
At this point your students should see the “flow” of the assessment. It is not a step-by-step recipe but rather an outline moving seamlessly from one part to another. With that in mind, we can start adding connections. For example, we draw a line to show that we are only going to give fluids if the patient is hypotensive or our patient will get oxygen if the O2 saturation is < 94%.
The following diagram shows only some of the many connections that can be made.
Concept mapping is a great tool whenever you are teaching complex concepts and are ideal for a group of students to work on together. They help hone our students’ skills at understanding the complex connections between assessment, diagnostic procedures, treatment and transport.
I encourage you to try using some concept maps in one of your next classes. Like so many CATs, its use is limited only by your imagination.
Douglas began his career in public safety as a paid-on-call firefighter with the Havana City Fire Department in Illinois. He attended EMT-Basic training in 1992 at Spoon River College where he is now an adjunct professor of prehospital medicine. He has had his paramedic license since 1994 and has been a lead instructor since 1999. During his career with the fire service, Douglas was an instructor with the Illinois Fire Service Institute specializing in rescue disciplines. He retired as a captain after serving for 20 years. While with the fire department, Douglas also worked full-time for Mason County EMS, an ALS ambulance service in downstate Illinois, as the EMS educator. Douglas received his bachelor’s degree in public safety management from Franklin University in Columbus, Ohio, and is working on his master’s in public safety administration through Lewis University.