EMS World

AUG 2011

EMS World Magazine is the most authoritative source in the world for clinical and educational material designed to improve the delivery of prehospital emergency medical care.

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By Troy M. Hagen, MBA, EMT-P | LEADERSHIP BEST PRACTICES The Supervising EMS Offi cer What values and competencies does an EMS supervisor need to succeed? This is the fi rst of a three-part series discussing the three prospective levels of EMS offi cers defi ned by the National EMS Management Association’s EMS Leadership Agenda Core Competencies project. Those levels are supervising, managing and executive EMS offi cers. For more see www.nemsma.org. WE CAN ALL point to people in our lives who have inspired us and moti- vated us to great things. We can also point to individuals who have demo- tivated us, sometimes to the point of defeat. When you think back on those times, what was it that made those individuals so great or so terrible? Did you marvel at how easily they did their job without apparent distress or mistakes, or was the person so incom- petent that you felt your own security was at risk? Did you know the person had a good heart and really cared about you, or did you feel they would lie and manipulate facts to spin things their way? How we relate to indi- viduals, especially our direct supervi- sors, has a direct impact on how well we perform our tasks and fulfi ll our responsibilities. The front-line EMS supervisor has an incredible ability to infl uence his or her team and impact performance. Finding the right people for these roles is an absolute necessity for high-functioning organizations. The supervising EMS offi cer who has both solid character and well-devel- oped core competencies can achieve incredible results and portray real leadership. These results are accom- plished by being able to infl uence others and push individuals to new heights by appropriately challenging and encouraging them. In his book The Servant, James Hunter calls this influence authority. Authority is earned and issued to the supervisor by those he supervises. Many new supervisors confuse authority with power. Power is given to the supervisor by someone else who simply placed the supervisor in a supervisory position. Power can achieve compliance and short-term results, but rarely translates into long-term success. Supervisors who try to lead through power rarely survive in EMS. That supervisor often becomes frustrated at what he perceives as his team members’ incompetence, and he rarely realizes the problem lies in his own leadership capabilities. The team often rebels, consciously or subconsciously, and performance suffers. Great supervisors are easy to point out, but how do you become one? Supervisor performance has been diffi cult to quantify and measure. The fi rst stage of NEMSMA’s Emergency Medical Services Management and Leadership Development in America: An Agenda for the Future called for the development of core leadership competencies. This process is underway, and results should be published later this year. Once the core competencies of the supervising EMS officer have been adopted, standards and expectations must be established. These have already been developed in most organizations. Adopting a well-defined set of values establishes character expectations. Those values must be frequently showcased as the standard of behavior for all employees. The supervisor is critical in ensuring all employees live by the values of the organization. Without this level of accountability, the organization has no chance to fully embrace its strategic direction and accomplish its goals. Standards and expectations also can also be derived from the supervisor’s job description, policies and proce- dures, and performance expectations. Performance evaluations should outline what is expected of every employee and how well they are achieving it. Supervisor evaluations should include performance indicators, including a 360-degree feedback review from fellow supervisors, the crews under supervi- sion, and administration. This feedback will help the supervisor grow within the organization. Quality measures for supervisors are challenging but not impossible. Some measures can appraise character, while others evaluate competence. Many are similar to fi eld employees’ (e.g., punctuality, sick use or abuse, out-of- service time, clinical skills), but may be graded to a higher standard. Some are more supervisor-specifi c: for instance, employee recognition and satisfaction, disciplinary actions/grievances, scene management issues, adverse events on shifts, claims, complaints, and task completion/deadlines. In some systems, quality measures such as these may be attributable to individual supervisors, while in other systems a shift compar- ison analysis may be more prudent. While more research is needed, there is likely a difference in performance among supervisors who exercise authority compared to power. Organizations must invest in devel- oping their supervising EMS offi cers with training, patience and sincere guidance. Do not let the supervisor fail without giving him the tools to succeed. An initial “supervisor academy” and ongoing training must address policies and procedures, human resources, confl ict management, scene manage- ment, ICS, media relations, and myriad other things. Spending several shifts working side-by-side with another supervisor will help the new supervisor get up to speed quickly and learn from an experienced hand. With the right tools, your super- vising EMS offi cer can achieve great- ness among the next generation of EMS providers. Troy M. Hagen, MBA, EMT-P, is director of Ada County Paramedics in Boise, ID. He is president-elect of the National EMS Management Associa- tion. EMSWORLD.com | AUGUST 2011 35

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