Sending Them Down The Right Path

Recently, I have been on a huge Field Training Officer kick.  I want the right people training new EMTs and new paramedics.  You know the kind of people I’m talking about: strong role models who can not only provide great patient care but also have the bed side manner to set the example for new EMTs and paramedics, giving them someone positive to compare their actions and the actions of their coworkers against.

We need to keep in mind though that whether we are an FTO or not, it is our responsibility to make sure our new Providers are headed down the right path.  We should feel obligated as a community to make sure that every patient receives the best possible care, regardless of whether or not we are personally on the call.

It starts with the hiring process.  You need to get the right people in the door, and we all need to remember that its easier to teach someone to backboard a patient properly than it is to show someone how to have the right attitude for this job.  Keep that in mind when dealing with a new EMT.  They might not be as fast as you like, or as clinically rounded as they could be, but ask yourself one important question: “Do they have the right attitude?”

Next, a complete orientation process is necessary.  That should go beyond just reviewing the policy and procedure manual.  This is a chance to teach these new impressionable minds the things that they didn’t get to learn in EMT class.  They need to learn how to cope with this job, and have the tools not only to practice as an EMT, but to exist in this world.

Life lessons?  In Orientation?  Absolutely.  Take a look back at what Skip Kirkwood said when we sat down with him at EMS Expo.  EMTs need to learn financial responsibility.  They need to learn how to manage their money and be smart, and they need to be taught it early so that when they get that significant (in most cases) pay raise when they get that rocker on their shoulder, they are prepared for it.

They need to learn the warning signs of their personal breaking point, and understand what they need to do when they feel themselves getting close, not when they break.  They should know what help is available for them if they have a bad call, or maybe if they just have a bad day.  All of this and more needs to be covered before they even contemplate stepping on the streets.

This takes us to the FTO’s roll.  They need to be educators, and resources, and observers.  What does it take to be a good FTO?  And what should an FTO do?  I could write and write about what I feel should be done during the field training phase of an EMT’s career.  There is lots to think about and lots to remember.  It takes patience, confidence in yourself and the person you are training, and most importantly, the ability to step back and not be hands on with “our” patients.  I can tell you from experience that I am a typical Type A personality.  I don’t like not being in control.  I’ve also been a field trainer for the last eight years, and I still struggle with that.

Once the new EMT is done with their precepting time, and we unleash them to practice medicine on the unsuspecting public, it is now up to their partner, and whoever else they encounter on the streets to keep them on the straight and narrow.  Help them understand what it takes for them to be a good partner, and keep reminding them of what their partner needs from them.

Lastly, give them a chance.  We very quickly lose sight of the fact that once we were new too.  We didn’t know where every facility was, and not every ride we have given to the hospital was the absolutely shortest, quickest, or smoothest.  Give them feedback, and don’t pass judgment too quickly.  We all struggled to some extent when we started.

Are you tired of seeing substandard providers on the streets?  Are you sick of people giving your profession a bad name?  Well do something about it.  Be a leader.  Be a role model.

You have heard the old adage, “It takes a village to raise a child.”  Well, the same is true for EMS.  “It takes an entire service to make a great provider.”


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