Paramedic Education Program Technical Standards

Clear academic and technical standards assure that decisions concerning entrance for all students are based upon non-discriminatory criteria. Federal law requires the provision of reasonable accommodations to persons with disabilities who possess “the academic and technical (non-academic) standards” for admission or participation in the EMS programs and courses. In courses where enrollment is limited and based on selective criteria, having clearly spelled out academic and technical standards assures the absence of discrimination against qualified persons with disabilities who have succeeded with reasonable accommodations. Having technical standards available also assists potential applicants with or without disabilities to assess their ability to succeed in the program and the EMS profession. Technical standards for admission are all non-academic criteria that are essential to participate in the EMS program. These technical standards include personal and professional attributes, skills, knowledge, physical, medical, safety, and other requirements that an individual must meet in order to be eligible for admission to and retention in the EMS program. 

Students admitted to the EMS program are expected to be able to complete curriculum requirements which include physical, cognitive, and affective core competencies that are essential to the functions of the entry level EMS provider. These core competencies are considered the minimum and essential skills necessary to protect the public. These abilities are encountered in unique combinations in the provision of safe and effective EMS care. Progression in the program may be denied if a student is unable to demonstrate the technical standards with or without reasonable accommodations.

The Emergency Medical Services Learning Resources Center at the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics is obliged to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified students with disabilities, which may include academic adjustments, auxiliary aids, and/or program modifications. Accommodations that fundamentally alter the nature of the academic program, could jeopardize the health and safety of others, or cause an undue burden to the program are not considered reasonable accommodations.

General Knowledge and Skills Required of All EMS Personnel

  • Ability to communicate verbally via telephone and radio equipment
  • Ability to lift, carry, and balance up to 125 pounds (250 pounds with assistance)
  • Ability to interpret written, oral, and diagnostic information
  • Ability to use good judgement and remain calm in high-stress situations
  • Ability to work effectively in an environment with loud noises and flashing lights
  • Ability to function efficiently throughout and entire work shift
  • Ability to calculate weight and volume ratios and read small print under both life threating and time constraints
  • Ability to read and understand English language manuals and GPS/road maps
  • Ability to accurately discern street signs and address numbers
  • Ability to interview patient, family members, and bystanders
  • Ability to document, in writing, all relevant scene and patient information


  • Recall, collect, analyze, synthesize, and integrate information from a variety of sources
  • Measure, calculate, reason, analyze and synthesize data
  • Problem-solve and think critically in order to apply knowledge and skill
  • Communicate verbally, and through reading and writing, with individuals from a variety of social, emotional, cultural, and intellectual background
  • Relay information in oral and written form effectively, accurately, reliably and intelligibly to individuals and groups, using the English language

Examples of Learning Activities Found in the EMS Curriculum and Related to Industry Standards:

  • Process information thoroughly and quickly to prioritize and implement EMS care
  • Sequence or cluster data to determine patient needs
  • Develop and implement a EMS plan of care for patients in the pre-hospital setting
  • Discriminate fine/subtle differences in medical word endings
  • Report verbally and in writing patient data to members of the health care team
  • Perform math computations for medication dosage calculations both with and without a calculator.


  • Coordinate fine and gross motor movements
  • Coordinate hand/eye movements
  • Maintain balance from any position
  • Negotiate level surfaces, ramps, and stairs
  • Function with both hands free for performing psychomotor tasks
  • Maneuver in small, confined areas
  • Attend to cognitive and psychomotor tasks for up to 48 hours

Examples of Learning Activities Found in the EMS Curriculum and Related to Industry Standards:

  • Transfer patients in and out of bed from stretchers and wheelchairs
  • Control a fall by slowly lowering the patient to the floor
  • Perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
  • Lift or move (turn, position) patient or objects, pull or push objects, weighing up to 50 pounds
  • Reach to shoulder or higher level to place or access equipment such as intravenous fluid bags, bend or squat to access equipment
  • Carry equipment and supplies to the patient location
  • Manipulate small equipment and containers, such as syringes, vials, ampules, and medication packages, to administer medications
  • Dispose of needles in sharps container
  • Complete assigned periods of practice (24 to 48-hour shifts, days, evenings, or nights)


  • Acquire information from demonstrations and experiences, including but not limited to information conveyed through online coursework, lecture, small group activities, demonstrations, and application experiences
  • Collect information through observation, listening, touching, and smelling
  • Use and interpret information from diagnostic maneuvers

Examples of Learning Activities Found in the EMS Curriculum and Related to Industry Standards:

  • Detect changes in skin color or condition (pale, ashen, grey, or bluish)
  • Draw up a prescribed quality of medication into a syringe
  • Detect sounds related to bodily functions using a stethoscope
  • Observe and collect data from recording equipment and measurement devices used in patient care
  • Communicate with patient and members of the health care team in person and over the phone/radio in a variety of settings
  • Detect foul orders of bodily fluids, the environment, and spoiled foods
  • Detect changes in skin temperature
  • Detect unsafe temperature levels in heat-producing devices used in patient care
  • Detect anatomical abnormalities, such as subcutaneous crepitus, edema, or infiltrated intravenous fluids
  • Feel sensations such as an arterial pulse


  • Demonstrate emotional stability to function effectively under stress and adapt to changing environments
  • Maintain effective, mature, and sensitive relationships with others
  • Examine and modify one’s own behavior when it interferes with others or the learning environment
  • Possess attributes that include compassion, empathy, altruism, integrity, honesty, responsibility, and tolerance

Examples of Learning Activities Found in the EMS Curriculum and Related to Industry Standards:

  • Exercise judgement meet acceptable timeframes for patient care delivery (acceptable timeframes are reflected by the ability to carry out the usual patient care assignment for a particular point in the program within the allotted clinical time), work effectively under stress, and adapt to rapidly changing patient care environments
  • Accept accountability for actions that resulted in patient care errors
  • Deal effectively with interpersonal conflict if it arises; maintain effective and harmonious relationships with members of the health care team

Students who need reasonable accommodations to meet the above requirements are encouraged to contact the Human Resources Representative for Emergency Medicine at the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics at 1-319-384-6896 to determine if reasonable accommodations can be made.