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Unlocking Learning: The Power of Debriefing

Posted by on Mar 1, 2024 in Education & Training, Events & Appearances | 0 comments

Have you ever wondered why some people seem to navigate through life’s experiences effortlessly, while others stumble through, seemingly learning nothing? As a firefighter and paramedic, I’ve come to understand that true learning and growth don’t just happen during the experience itself but in the reflection that follows.

In my latest article, published on, I delve into the concept of learning through reflection, particularly focusing on the powerful tool of debriefing. Whether you’re an educator, clinician, leader, or simply someone seeking personal development, understanding the art of debriefing can be transformative.

Debriefing isn’t just about recounting what happened; it’s a structured and facilitated process that occurs after the event, allowing individuals to extract meaningful insights and lessons. It’s about creating a safe space for reflection, where participants can explore their experiences, both successes, and failures, and distill key learnings for future growth.

In the article, I provide a simple framework for effective debriefing, emphasizing its structured and student-centered nature. By following these guidelines, you can enhance the quality of your debriefing sessions and facilitate deeper learning and understanding.

One misconception about debriefing is that it’s overly formal and reserved for high-stakes scenarios. However, as I highlight in the article, debriefing can be applied in various contexts, from high-fidelity simulations to everyday classroom or real-world experiences.

Drawing inspiration from historical teaching methods, I reflect on how debriefing contrasts with traditional approaches focused solely on information transfer. By encouraging active participation and reflection, debriefing aligns with the principles of experiential learning, allowing individuals to learn not just from instruction but from their own experiences and interactions.

So, whether you’re leading a team, guiding students, or seeking personal growth, I invite you to explore the transformative power of debriefing. Together, let’s unlock the potential for deeper learning and development through reflection.

Read the full article HERE. Join the conversation and discover how debriefing can elevate your learning journey.

In the meantime, here’s my interview with Dr. Ted Lee on the topic.

The Strength in Us.

Posted by on Jan 27, 2021 in Education & Training, Emergency Response, Events & Appearances, Rom's Notes | 0 comments

EMS Today Keynote: The Strength In Us -How EMS Gets The Job Done!

It should be no surprise that emergency responders continue to step-up to keep our communities safe even through increasingly challenging events. Wildfires. Monster storms. Protests and pandemics. We get the job done.

At the last major conference at which I spoke, I was able to deliver a keynote presentation that I am not only proud of, I believe captures the very ESSENCE of emergency services more now than it did when I first gave it.

Watch The Strength In Us: How EMS Gets The Job Done!

The keynote itself is only about 20 minutes long, even though it took a year to write. I still think back on it occasionally to remind myself why I’m here, and why it is important for us to keep doing what we’re doing, despite the difficulties.

If you get a chance to take a look, I hope it means something to you too.

In the meantime, stay strong, stay safe, take care of yourself, but know that you’re not alone.

-Rommie L. Duckworth

COVID-19 Impact on Emergency Services Education

Posted by on Apr 19, 2020 in Education & Training, Emergency Response, Events & Appearances, Rom's Notes | 0 comments

COVID-19 has had an impact on everyone’s life, especially the daily work of medical providers and emergency responders. Long hours, extra work, equipment shortages and changing procedures add tremendous stress to emergency response systems and, more importantly, individual emergency responders.

As someone who not only works in emergency response but regularly teaches at large gatherings, I’m seeing many local, regional, and even national education events being canceled or rescheduled. This unfortunate, but necessary consequence of the spread of COVID-19 has lead many to ask if there will be a permanent change to the way emergency response education is delivered.

Are conferences as we know them a thing of the past? Are we no longer doing training drills together? Is all education going online?

While I believe that there is tremendous value in the availability, convenience, and now safety of online training, webinars, podcasts, and the like, there will always be a role for emergency responders to gather together to interact face-to-face. Online formats often lend themselves to better TRANSFER of knowledge, but direct interaction, such as at drills, classes, and conferences, can lead to better APPLICATION of that knowledge. Of course, it depends on the individual classes, educators, and students, but I strongly believe that there is no substitute for the non-verbal communication and human interaction that helps us understand how to improve our performance and the performance of the systems in which we work.

I certainly hope that the increased awareness of common sanitary protections that COVID-19 has raised (like improved hand-washing, increased use of sanitizer, and a decrease in the practice of licking one’s hand before handshakes) will continue long after we emerge from our homes into the Summer sun. There are lessons of preparedness and the importance of supporting emergency response systems that I hope are not forgotten by our leaders and the public in general.

The COVID-19 problem will test, but not break our emergency responders. Things will have to change for a while, and emergency services will do what we need to, as we always do. And when it is safe to do so, we’ll gather together to support each other, share lessons learned, and most importantly help each other prepare for whatever the next challenge is. Because that’s how we get the job done.

JEMS Publishes National Association of EMS Educators (NAEMSE) Position Paper Calling for Better Sepsis Education for EMS

Posted by on Jul 29, 2018 in Events & Appearances | 0 comments

National Association of EMS Educators (NAEMSE) Position Paper Calls for More Consistent and Improved Sepsis Education for EMS

I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to be the lead author on the National Association of EMS Educators (NAEMSE) Position Paper On Sepsis Education Standards For EMS with Dr. Chris Nollette, Dr. Bill Reynovich, and Kevin Collopy.


JEMS NAEMSE Position Paper Sepsis

As a member of the Advisory Board for the Sepsis Alliance I get the opportunity to voice my opinion as an EMS provider on sepsis clinical recommendations, resources, and education materials intended for all members of the continuum of care. It’s a chance not only to improve care for victims of sepsis and their families, but also to raise awareness of the clinical and professional capabilities of prehospital care providers.


As the project progressed, I learned a ton from my co-authors. They were very generous with their expertise. Their insistence on asking me tough questions and challenging my thought process made me a better writer, evaluator of research, and in the end I think a better clinician.


I hope you take a look at this paper. It’s not that long. I hope it adds to your knowledge and understanding not only of sepsis, and the importance of continually evaluating needs in EMS (and indeed in all) clinical education.

Sepsis FR

Thanks to Ryan Kelly and AJ Heightman of  Journal of Emergency Medical Services (JEMS) for publishing it.

On The Road in 2017!

Posted by on Jan 16, 2017 in Emergency Response, Events & Appearances | 0 comments

I’m on the road quite a bit in 2017. Will you be at one of these events?


If I’m in your neck of the woods or you happen to find yourself in one of the following areas, stop by and say hi!

Speaking Engagements:


 January 27, 2017: WEMSA Working Together Conference, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

January 29, 2017: National Fire Academy EMS Quality Management Program, Emmitsburg, Maryland

 February 22, 2017: EMS Today, Salt Lake City, Utah

 March 4, 2017: Southeastern Extrication School, Hartsville, South Carolina

 March 31st, 2017: Maryland Fire Rescue Institute Professional Development in Service, College Park, Maryland

 April 19, 2017: Ridgefield Fire Department EMS Symposium, Ridgefield, Connecticut

April 25, 2017: FDIC Fire Department Instructors Conference, Indianapolis, Indiana

 May 20, 2017: IAFC Fire Rescue Med Conference, Henderson, Nevada

 June 9, 2017: Louisiana Association of Nationally Registered Emergency Medical Technicians Conference, Houma, Louisiana

 July 26, 2017: Missouri EMS Conference & Expo, Branson, Missouri

And, of course, I teach regularly at the Ridgefield Fire Department and the New Fairfield Volunteer Fire Department.

Additional dates posted on the calendar at the right—>

I hope to see you there.

Say hi on Twitter @romduck !

AND Controversies in Fire and EMS: Reading Past the Headlines

Posted by on Dec 31, 2016 in Events & Appearances | 0 comments

Lately it seems the people of been more attracted to headline controversies than real conversations. It’s understandable in a way. If someone wants to be the center of attention, one of the easiest ways is to say something controversial. Someone is sure to refute what you’ve said, and soon a crowd gathers.

While I don’t expect to have much of an effect on this in the big picture, I hope to contribute in some way at least in emergency services to reduce the “this vs. that” mentality that often polarizes people who, if they talk it out, would find that their fundamental positions are not actually that far apart. This is true whether you’re talking in the fire service about transitional attack and through the front door or straight stream and solid stream, or in EMS about air and ground transport, or intubation and BVM. The list goes on and on.

Did you see what I did there? I simply replaced the “VS” which automatically demands that people consider no additional options, choose only one side or the other, and implies that one side wins and one side loses. I replaced it with “AND” which opens up the possibility of having a conversation about these topics and probably more. A simple change to “AND” lets us take a look at the pros and cons of each element of the conversation and, hopefully, look past the headlines that promote them so that we can consider real information and, hopefully, move towards real solutions.

It’s a lot to ask for people to try to do this and the rest of their lives. Some people say that human beings have a natural inclination to gather around conflict shouting “FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT!”. That may be true for a lot of people, but I believe that emergency responders are the kind of people who would show up to stop a bully or break up a fight.

Headlines and controversies can be fun to read and sometimes even spark a good debate, but they are like candy.  Great now and again, but if it’s all you live off your going to get sick.

On The Road

Posted by on Oct 1, 2016 in Emergency Response, Events & Appearances | 0 comments

As the Autumn leaves start to curl here in New England, I’m setting my travel for the rest of the year, into late 2017. Will you be at one of these events?




If I’m in your neck of the woods or you happen to find yourself in one of the following areas, stop by and say hi!

Speaking Engagements:

September 7, 2016: National Fire Academy Executive Fire Officer Program Symposium, Emmitsburg, Maryland

 September 12, 2016: Delaware Volunteer Firefighters Association Annual Conference, Dover, Delaware

 September 30, 2016: New York State Volunteer Ambulance and Rescue Association Pulse Check Conference, Albany, New York

 October 3, 2016: Connecticut Fire Academy Rescue Week, Windsor Locks, Connecticut

 October 5, 2016: EMS World Expo, New Orleans, Louisiana

 November 2, 2016: Olathe Fire Department EMS Symposium, Olathe, Kansas

 December 3, 2016: Duckworth Annual Christmas Party, Sherman, Connecticut

 January 27, 2017: WEMSA Working Together Conference, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

January 29, 2017: National Fire Academy EMS Quality Management Program, Emmitsburg, Maryland

 February 22, 2017: EMS Today, Salt Lake City, Utah

 March 4, 2017: Southeastern Extrication School, Hartsville, South Carolina

 March 31st, 2017: Maryland Fire Rescue Institute Professional Development in Service, College Park, Maryland

 April 19, 2017: Ridgefield Fire Department EMS Symposium, Ridgefield, Connecticut

April 25, 2017: FDIC Fire Department Instructors Conference, Indianapolis, Indiana

 May 20, 2017: IAFC Fire Rescue Med Conference, Henderson, Nevada

 June 9, 2017: Louisiana Association of Nationally Registered Emergency Medical Technicians Conference, Houma, Louisiana

 July 26, 2017: Missouri EMS Conference & Expo, Branson, Missouri

And, of course, I teach regularly at the Ridgefield Fire Department and the New Fairfield Volunteer Fire Department.

Additional dates posted on the calendar at the right—>

I hope to see you there.

Say hi on Twitter @romduck !

September 11th : Are We Honoring Their Memories?

Posted by on Sep 20, 2015 in Events & Appearances, Rom's Notes | 0 comments


Maybe The Question Should Not Be “Do you Remember September 11th?”, But Rather “How Do you Remember September 11th?”

I’ve heard a lot of people ask lately “Do You Remember?”. There are even songs about it. This year especially it seems to me that more and more people are going out of their way to ask if I’m “remembering”, and to show that they are. I get it. You’re proud of your country. You want to show support for the United States on the anniversary of one of the greatest wounds it’s ever sustained.  You want to honor the memories of the fallen. Maybe you knew them personally. Maybe you only know of them. Either way, I get it. That’s a good thing.

 But I get this creeping feeling.

Maybe it’s in response to the fact that we now know and even work with young adults who have little to no personal memory of that day.  For many people in this country, and the number will grow as the years go by, September 11th, 2001 is not much more than any other event in a history book. A story.
 For those of us for whom 9/11 has a more direct and personal meaning, that bothers us. We ask, “Do You Remember?” And the answer is, of course, no, they don’t.
 So we work to ensure that they understand the meaning of the event. We erect memorials. We schedule ceremonies. We display emblems. And it’s good that we do this work so that younger generations understand the meaning of the event, and honor the fallen.
I feel that slowly, over the years, that “Do You Remember?” is sometimes not a question. I feel that it is becoming a challenge. The implication is that others (maybe even me) are not displaying enough. That there aren’t enough flags. That the ceremonies aren’t big enough. That there aren’t enough memorials.

That isn’t the way that I feel that memories are honored.

I saw plenty of really terrible things that day. Things that make me feel anxious and sad and sick to my stomach to even think about. And I didn’t see even half of what others did. I saw amazing acts of bravery. And brotherhood. And heroism. I saw things done well that made a tremendous difference to the many responders and few survivors. I also saw a lot of failings. I saw systems and plans and equipment and training (or lack thereof) fail when they should have shined. I saw many, many things in our work that needed to be changed.
So we’ve had almost 15 years. Has there been progress?
Yes. In some places. In some ways.

Remembering 9.11How best to honor the memory of our fallen brothers and sisters?

How best to show evil that it did not accomplish what it sought? How best to show that we are even stronger now than we were then?
Yes, we should gather at ceremonies, in front of memorials to honor and remember the dead and to pass on the meaning of the event to younger generations. But that’s what we do in public.
Can’t we, among ourselves as emergency responders, take a look at what needed to be done then, and what needs to be done now, and do something about it? Wouldn’t that be the best way to honor the day and those lost?

It takes work.

Quiet, unappreciated work. Work on days when there are no gatherings and speeches given. Work on days when everyone is tired and people are having a tough day. Work when there are plenty of other things we could or would rather be doing.
We could work on making sure that every first responder knows at least the fundamentals of MCI operations. We could work on true communications interoperability, not just radios that can talk to each other. We can work on the fundamentals of emergency services operations that will serve to guide our actions no matter what size the incident. There are so very many things that need to be done.
Please, do what you feel you need to today. Speak in public. Share with friends. Grieve. Honor. Remember. But especially when it comes to passing on to the younger generation the meaning of the day, please, please help them, help all of us make a difference from the way we did things then to the way we do things now. Think of today, and that day fourteen years ago while you work every day to move us forward.
I would so much rather see that people are honoring the friends and family that we lost by remembering, every day, in quiet, but measurable progress than in great gatherings with speeches to mark a single day and then have everyone just go back to the way things were.

SPECIAL INVITE: EMS providers in CT, NY, NJ: You’re invited to the 4th Annual Sepsis Heroes Gala in NYC free of charge

Posted by on Sep 4, 2015 in Events & Appearances, Rom's Notes | 0 comments

On September 17, 2015 at 7pm in New York City the 2015 Sepsis Hero awards will be presented. To recognize the special role that EMS providers play in emergency care for sepsis patients, the Sepsis Alliance would like to extend five free tickets to EMS providers interested in attending.


If you are interested, please email me for additional information.


This year’s honorees are:

Kevin Tracey, MD – President and CEO of The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, and President and Professor of the Elmezzi Graduate School of Molecular Medicine;

Sam Bass – The first officially licensed artist of NASCAR, and sepsis survivor;

Rom Duckworth – Emergency responder and award-winning educator;

Leo Araujo – Sepsis awareness advocate and founder of Fantastic Fun Day fundraising and awareness event;

Susan Irick – Sepsis survivor, nurse, and sepsis and pneumonia disease manager at Northeast Georgia Medical Center;

Carolinas HealthCare System – developed a Sepsis Collaborative to improve recognition of sepsis and reduce mortality.


Sepsis Heroes Keynote Speaker

Sepsis Alliance is pleased to have Leah Binder as the evening’s keynote speaker. Ms. Binder is President and CEO of The Leapfrog Group, a national nonprofit based in Washington, DC, representing employers and other purchasers of health care calling for improved safety and quality in hospitals.


Sepsis Heroes Sponsors

The Sepsis Heroes event could not be possible without the generous support of its sponsors. This year’s sponsors include Leading BioSciences, Cytosorbents, NASCAR, Wolters Kluwer Health, MSC, Intermountain Healthcare, Presence Health, Arena NYC, Checklist Boards, and Spike Out Sepsis.


Following the Rules for Educators

Posted by on May 19, 2015 in Events & Appearances | 0 comments

How Following The Rules For Educators Paid Off For Me

Editor’s Note: While this post is in reference to an incident that occurred at a conference presentation, the rules for educators apply to any kind of education including in-house, open-to-the-public, formal academic or informal pick-up drill. If you teach, read on…

I got in late (2 am) to present at a conference the following day, but that didn’t stop me from updating my status on Twitter to “Arrived Late, but ready to go”. I wanted to let my wife know that I’d landed safely after presenting 3 sessions earlier that day at another conference 750 miles away.

Tired, I settled-in and, following “The Rules for Educators”, I made SURE that my presentations for the next day were ready to go and that if, for some reason, the fire alarm went off in the middle of the night and a conference rep asked me to keep everyone who had evacuated the hotel entertained for an hour with spontaneous educational presentations I would be ready to do it.

EMS World Expo - Version 2Paranoid? Obsessive? Anal-retentive? Maybe? But it’s happened to me… TWICE!**

Since my schedule said that I wasn’t to present until 4pm the next day, I decided that I’d catch up on some rest and NOT set an the alarm for the morning.



I slowly regained my mental faculties and prepared to greet the day and give the conference attendees all of the energy and enthusiasm that they deserve for emergency service topics that they and I both care about passionately. And then, at 9:51 the hotel phone rings.

uh, oh


I knew what it was immediately. We’ve all had that call at some point. Maybe it was because of a swap. Maybe you worked extra shifts and forgot that you had to come in for your regular shift too. Whatever the cause, I knew it from the type of ring the phone was making. It was saying to me “Where they heck are you?!?”

I picked it up and answered as I do, “Duckworth.” The voice of the polite young lady at the other end said “Mr. Duckworth, we’re all set up for your presentation at 10:00 am.” Check above: Time now 9:51.

I responded with the only available answer, “Excellent. I will be right down.”

Reflexes born from years of getting up late for kicked in and I was dressed in suit and tie in three minutes flat. Laptop in hand, I was in the elevator in four.

IMG_2368Once downstairs the polite young lady handed me off to the A/V people and the man who was introducing me at the podium. Several times they asked me if I would rather just cancel the session since I only had three minutes left to prep. Checking the connections to my laptop and booting up the first slide with a minute to go I thanked them for their concern, but I was ready to begin whenever they wished.

And this brings me to my point (and I do have one).

There are many tips and tricks for speakers and educators, but for me, there are a few little know RULES that are not meant to be broken.

Measure Twice, Cut Once

-Had I seen my updated schedule I would have been prepared for an earlier start. Unfortunately, for some reason I had not received it. With any type of program, educators must make themselves aware of last minute updates and changes, regardless of how busy they are or what they are doing immediately prior to delivering their class. This was the rule that I had somehow violated and it could have caused an issue (other than a momentary panic attack) had I not followed my other rules.

Be Already Ready Already

-Even though it was late and I was exhausted, my clothes were ironed and my computer, adaptors and paperwork were laid out, ready to go right away. I make a habit of following this rule not only so that I am prepared for unexpected events, but also so that I have more time to enjoy my time before and in-between conference sessions.

Never Have Half A Presentation

-Like most educators I am always updating the style and content of my presentations. However, I’ve learned through trial and error (mostly error) that whenever I work on a presentation I must a) always save often and b) always leave the presentation ready to go BEFORE I close my laptop. I may not have time to complete all of the updates that I want all in one session, but if I want to keep from “surprising myself” with incomplete content showing up in the middle of a presentation, I have to leave the presentation in a ready state, even if it means leaving some portions of the program “hidden” until I can complete my update.

The Customer is Always Right

-I’m not sure why I didn’t have the updated schedule, but it was irrelevant if it was the conference’s fault, the internet’s or mine (we all agreed to blame the internet. “Damn you internets!”)*. The priority was not to investigate, blame or curse, the priority was to give the conference organizers and, more importantly, the emergency responders who were giving me their time in the expectation that I would give them valuable information in return. regardless of how difficult or aggravating a situation may be, an educator MUST remember what we’re all here for. Lady Gaga can be a prima-donna if she wants, but there is no room for that in emergency services.

The Show Must Go On

– This was not the time to apologize to the conference organizers or attendees. There is no good to come from explanations, excuses, or otherwise drawing attention to an issue. Sure, if we had had to cancel because of a no-show or had we been delayed so long as to significantly impact the program that the students had been promised, we would need to let them know not why we had an issue, but rather what we were going to do to resolve it or make it up to them. Either way, “The Show Must Go On” is key for educators to keep in mind for themselves as well as programs that they manage. Remember, if you’re in a seat waiting to learn and a program is delayed, the LAST thing you want is someone wasting your time with explanations and excuses. “Hey, just get on with it, or tell me what you’re going to do to fix it.” In this case, the conference organizers had to say was that they were amazed that none of the attendees would have known that there was ever an issue. This was also when I found out that the organizers had thought that this might be my first-ever presentation at a large conference. Luckily for everyone, this wasn’t even my first presentation at a large conference IN THE LAST 24 HOURS!

So everything turned out ok and I’m on my way back for another shift at the FD. There will be calls and cleaning and maintenance and, yes, more education to do but I can assure you that whatever I’m teaching next, I will be, without a doubt, following all the rules.

*As it turned out, I had made preliminary notes on when the conference had wanted me to present and, because of my late check-in, was unable to get updated since the conference registration was closed at 2am (slackers).