AVON PARK, Fla.–Jan. 28, 2015–South Florida State College (SFSC) now offers the only nationally accredited emergency medical services (EMS) program in its service district of Highlands, Hardee, and DeSoto counties. The program received initial accreditation through Jan. 31, 2020 from the largest programmatic accreditor in the health sciences field, the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).

CAAHEP accreditation is a mark of distinction, certifying that an EMS program adheres to the highest national standards of education. Notification of SFSC’s EMS program accreditation came to Dr. Thomas Leitzel, SFSC president, on Jan. 16 in a letter from CAAHEP President Dr. Thomas Skalko, congratulating SFSC on its achievement and commitment to continuous quality improvement in education.

SFSC’s site visit report listed no deficiencies and 100 percent compliance with CAAHEP standards and minimum outcomes thresholds. CoA EMSP will regularly monitor the program’s compliance with the outcomes assessment threshold through the program’s annual report as well as other documentation that may be requested.

To be accredited, programs must meet a set of nationally established standards and undergo an intensive process that includes a peer review and on-site visitations conducted by the Committee on Accreditation of Educational Programs for the Emergency Medical Services Professions (CoA EMSP) and CAAHEP’s board of directors.

Those standards encompass not only faculty but also administration, resources, facilities, equipment, progress and competency, and clinical partnerships related to the accredited program.

To become a certified paramedic in Florida, students must attend an accredited program and pass the state of Florida Paramedic certification examination.  Graduates are also eligible to take the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technician (NREMT) Paramedic Skills Examination and Computer Based Test (CBT). While awaiting the full accreditation, graduates of the SFSC’s EMS program have been eligible to take these exams thanks to a Letter of Review from CAAHEP.

As a result, students who graduate from CAAHEP-accredited institutions are more readily accepted into other advanced degree EMS programs and have broader employment opportunities—nationally and internationally. 

 “Even though SFSC’s paramedic program has provided quality education for more than 10 years, CAAHEP accreditation validates the excellence of our program,” said Steve Ashworth, chair of SFSC’s EMS and Fire Science programs. “National accreditation is the benchmark for all paramedic programs in the nation.”

SFSC offers a two-year generic Associate in Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree in Emergency Medical Services program, an Emergency Medical Technician Advanced Technical Diploma, and an 11-month paramedic college credit certificate. The curriculum provides students with classroom, lab, field, and clinical experiences in a variety of emergency care environments and facilities.

These EMS programs are among several Allied Health programs offered by SFSC that includes dental hygiene, dental assisting, radiography, paramedic, and emergency medical technician.

CAAHEP is responsible for the specialized accreditation of EMS education programs, both postsecondary and higher degree, which offer a certificate, a diploma, or a recognized professional degree (clinical doctorate, master’s/post-master’s certificate, baccalaureate, associate, diploma, and practical). In collaboration with its Committees on Accreditation, CAAHEP reviews and accredits more than 2,000 educational programs in 24 health science professions.

For more about CAAHEP, visit caahep.org. For more information on SFSC’s EMS program, contact Steve Ashworth at 863-784-7272 or visit southflorida.edu/academic/apsci/emergency/.