Resources for EMS Educators: The Beginning of Our Year-Long Discussion

By: Douglas Richardson, Paramedic, BS-PSM

He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches. – George Bernard Shaw

I have heard this quoted, misquoted, and paraphrased many times. Most of the time the person quoting it has no idea where it came from. In case you are interested, it comes from Shaw’s play Man and Superman / Maxims for Revolutionist; a play that is, to say the least, obscure.

So, does this quote—which has moved into the realm of a cliché—have any truth in the area of EMS education? I would argue that it does not; I would argue that it is demonstrably wrong.

Those who choose to teach EMS are the best, the brightest, and the most motivated. They move into the arena of education not because they cannot do the job, but rather because they are the ones who do the job the best.

However, being an exceptional clinician and having an excellent knowledge base does not make an excellent educator. Teaching, like any other skill, must be learned. As importantly, once learned it must be constantly relearned and improved upon. Most educators have no hesitation investing time in staying current and improving their knowledge base, but how many of us spend time improving ourselves as educators? How many of us are teaching in the same way that we did when we became educators? I am afraid that while many of us have grown as clinicians we have not done the same as educators.

One challenge in improving our teaching skills is the lack of resources available for EMS educators. With my upcoming articles on the Medic-CE blog, I hope to at least in some small way resolve that issue.

Over the coming year, we will explore a variety of educational topics. We will look at objectives, the road maps for our classes. We will spend some time discussing andragogy, the art, and science of teaching adult learners. Classroom assessment techniques (CATs) will be a topic we will spend several posts on. And after that—well, we will see where the road leads us on this journey.

One last bit of business today, let us put this damnable quote of Shaw’s to rest. Rather than dwell on this negative cliché about a most honorable profession, let us ponder on a quote that much better sets the tone for our growth as educators. This comes from a man who I have studied much and admire even more.

Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn. – Benjamin Franklin


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. 

To contact Doug email him at –

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