Forty percent of Iowa’s three million people live in rural areas and rely on an extensive rural health care network of small hospitals, clinics, and EMS providers rather than the state’s large, urban health care centers. Seventy percent of Iowa’s hospitals are designated as critical access, a federal designation designed to reduce the financial vulnerability of rural hospitals and improve access to healthcare by keeping essential services in rural communities.
A 2019 needs assessment by researchers at the University of Iowa College of Nursing found EMS and hospital education in the state is at a critical juncture. While all respondents agreed about the importance for continued education for EMS and hospital providers, few had the funding to provide the education and training.
Less than 40% of Iowa hospitals and EMS agencies provide any form of in-situ, or real world, simulation training for their personnel, instead providing the majority of their continuing education via in-person or online lectures. Though it is highly valued, the most common reasons for not providing in-situ education and training programs are lack of finances, equipment, and trained educators. For Iowa EMS agencies, the majority of which are staffed by uncompensated providers, funding is the primary deterrent and just over half have no funds budgeted for employee/volunteer education or training.