That morning in Dallas, I got to spend about two hours with Chief Skip Kirkwood from Wake County EMS, and boy did it fly by. The interview I posted in that previous post was a pretty good summary of what we covered in the more “formal” part of our talk. From there, the discussion turned to an exchange of ideas and thoughts on where we are at and where we are headed, and if you’re looking for inspiration, look no further than what you can learn from him, and his department in North Carolina.
My admiration for Skip Kirkwood started about five years ago. I learned about the National EMS Management Association, and their list serv on Google, and I quickly signed up for both. If you don’t follow the NEMSMA List Serv, what are you waiting for? Its filled with some of the greatest minds in EMS who frequently share ideas and thoughts on the field, and Skip is one of their most frequent and well respected contributors. When he speaks (or in this case writes) people stop, take notice, and listen.
I have actually saved many of his emails that I found to be useful, and I’ve shared them with those around me. I’ve closely followed the progress Wake County EMS has made over the years, and I even have a few friends from New Jersey who currently work in his system (who I am very jealous of).
To me, Skip Kirkwood comes across as someone who is a fearless, confident leader who expects nothing but the best out of everyone around him, and I don’t see why simply his personality wouldn’t bring that out of people. He also projects himself as a very patient person, eager to share the life and professional lessons he’s gained over the years.
I thought the most interesting moment in our interview was his response to the question “What lesson would you like to teach to a new EMT or Paramedic just getting their start in the field?” His response had nothing to do with anything clinical or even operational. It was about their personal well being. “Manage your finances,” he said, “don’t live outside of your means.” He pointed out what a big role fiscal difficulties play in Provider Burnout, and boy is he right. We frequently joke here that you can tell who the new Paramedics are, because they’re the ones driving into work in the brand new car, and they’re also the ones working 60 hours a week to pay for that shiny new toy.
Before we went to Expo, April and I were hoping for five or ten minutes of Chief Kirkwood’s time, maybe before a class, or while waiting in line for coffee, what we got was a lot more. We had his undivided attention for close to two hours. I walked away from that experience overloaded with information and thoughts about where we were, and where we were headed.
If you’re ever at a Conference, and you see that Chief Skip Kirkwood is lecturing, I highly recommend that you take the time to sit in on whatever topic he is teaching. In addition to the breakfast, I sat in on both sessions he taught at EMS Expo in Dallas, and I plan on attending his lecture in Baltimore next month. He has such a wealth of knowledge to share, and each and every one of us should jump at the chance to learn from what he has to teach us.