Let Your Values Guide You

Most EMS Professionals are asked to act on their own, and be responsible for their actions and decisions. In a system such as the one I work in, there’s a chance that the EMT’s contact with their direct Supervisor will be limited to twenty minutes at the start of their 8 to 12 hour day, and twenty minutes at the end of their shift. For the rest of the day, they are essentially their own boss.

In order for them to achieve the goal of working so independently, we ask them to take inventory of their personal values and remember the goal and mission statement of the organization when making decisions that might not be clinical in nature, but that could have a profound impact on themselves and those around them. That is a lot of responsibility for some people to handle, but we expect them to be able to do it because not only do we ask them to watch out for their own personal well being, we also put the lives of others in their hands.

EMS can be an exhausting job. We’ve all been there: we’ll go an entire day without a bite to eat, and barely a bathroom break. We encounter overworked nurses, patients who may or may not appreciate our presence in their lives, and (dare I say) fellow EMS workers who might not possess the same work ethic and goals as we do. Add to that sleep deprivation and you could say that you have a recipe for disaster. As each moment ticks by, that filter between our internal dialogue and our external one grows more and more thin, and the chance that those inappropriate words or actions could slip out increases.

Lately, I’ve been on a quest to find articles, tips, and tricks to pass on to my colleagues here in my system that will help them to walk the straight and narrow, and do the right thing, not only for themselves, but also for their coworkers and their patients. With the words, blogs, and tweets that many of you have shared with all of us over the last seven months, I’ve acquired some great tools, and for that, on behalf of the EMTs and Paramedics around me, I thank you.

The other day, I had a great discussion with 510Medic. The conversation bounced from topic to topic, and finally settled on morally guiding the prehospital provider. He told me about a tool that his boss, along with the famous Thom Dick came up with to help us all make sure that we are in the right. While the information provided is geared mainly towards EMS Leaders, most of it applies to all of us. The best analogy that I can come up with for it is “the Magnetic North on the Moral Compass.” It’s called STAR CARE, and the description posted by Mr. Taigman is far better than anything I could ever come up with. Follow this link, and read the whole page but pay specific attention to Question 3, as it is the focus of my article:


This had been exactly what I was looking for. I had to try it out for myself.

I showed that link to a colleague of mine, and we sat there going through some recent incidents that we’ve had in my system. We looked at it from not only the management perspective, but also from the viewpoint of a street provider, and the results helped us realize where we were right, where we were wrong, and what we could improve.

As I start to wrap this post up, please don’t misconstrue the message that I am trying to share. The EMS folks that I have worked with in the past and currently work with today are some of the best that I have ever encountered. They are caring, compassionate, competent and dedicated, but they are also human, and every human has a bad day. I’ve had my share, that’s for sure.

Next time you’re in any doubt about what you or a colleague might do or may have done, remember the values you’ve been taught, whip out that Moral Compass, look for that Magnetic North, and let it guide you. It will steer you towards where you need to be.

I’d like to thank 510Medic for sharing this information with me, and opening my eyes to yet another great tool developed by two of the best EMS thinkers that I’ve ever encountered.

Now, its time for me to go tell two more people about it. . .