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Abstract

Introduction: Training that aligns with learners’ expectations and preferences can help improve job satisfaction and reduce turnover. Previously published results described the preferences of supervisors and trainers. However, little is known about emergency dispatchers’ own preferences and expectations regarding training topics, styles, or delivery methods.

Objectives: The objective of this study was to describe the training methods and topics emergency dispatchers find most effective, what characteristics define successful versus unsuccessful trainings for them, and what motivates them to participate in training. A secondary objective was to compare these findings with the published findings about manager and supervisor preferences.

Methods: This was a non-randomized, non-controlled, and prospective cohort study. An online electronic survey, created using the Survey Monkey™ software, was used for data collection from certified emergency dispatchers at International Academies of Emergency Dispatch (IAED™) accredited centers in the USA. Survey questions applied to both initial (new hire) and ongoing (continuing education) training created and delivered in-house at the agency.

Results: A total of 127 emergency dispatchers completed the survey. Respondents reported a variety of preferences regarding training methods and topics. The most preferred method was on-the-job coaching (29.4%), followed by computer-based training (e-learning) and practice scenarios (19.1% each). They described trainings as unsuccessful when a trainee was “pushed through” to fill a seat (12.8%) or when there were not sufficient “hands-on” or role-play activities (12.8%).

Conclusions: Overall, emergency dispatchers appear more interested in understanding their place in the larger public safety system and the broader context of their work, whereas supervisors and trainers were more interested in dispatchers learning job-specific tasks, such as how to use the dispatch software. Also, supervisors and trainers were more likely to understand unsuccessful training as an individual problem (with the dispatcher or trainer), whereas learners saw the problem as systemic.