EMS seems to have this chronic problem of not putting their people out there enough and recognizing them for the vital role they play in their community each day.  Sure, there are organizations out there such as the American Ambulance Association which takes great EMS providers and puts them in front of members of congress as examples of what an EMS provider should be, but it seems to me that those instances are few and far between.

It should be noted that if someone gets into this field looking for ticker tape parades and medals to be pinned on their chests, they’ve definitely gotten into the wrong field.  EMS is 90% routine, and 10% action.  Sadly though, it is that 10% action that seems to be recognized 1% of the time.  The public isn’t going to care that Pat the Paramedic took care of thirty chest pain patients last month, but they should care that when Pat walks in the door of their home, they are going to have a caring, and compassionate provider standing in front of them.

There are a few things that I feel hold us back from really getting our people out there, and they’re all internal:

1.  The “It’s your job” mentality — Some leaders in EMS overlook consistent performance, citing that the person is doing what they are supposed to do.  While that statement might be accurate, reward and praise for consistency is a must.  Chances are, if this person meets the expectations set for them every day, they are frequently exceeding them, so praising them might actually go a long way.  If it seems like you have a number of people that are failing to meet the standards you are setting from them, take a good look at how they are being relayed to your people.  Chances are, they aren’t out there enough, or aren’t fully understood.

2.  Not enough eyes — In larger services, it’s not always easy to see and understand everything that is going on in the field.  Patient interactions can frequently go overlooked, and great employees can be overshadowed by that 5% of the employee base that takes up 90% of your time.  Give your employees a way to let you know what their coworkers have done.  Some places do this with an “I saw what you did” form.  My service has adopted something called a Kudos Email address.  The idea came to us from a class a colleague and I took at EMS Today taught by a manager from MedStar in Fort Worth, Texas.  The concept is simple: see someone do something that goes above and beyond?  Email management, and let us know so we can give them the recognition they deserve.

The response here has been overwhelming.  We probably get five or six emails a week right now of people talking about how they appreciate their relief coming in on time, or how a crew helped them clean their truck after a call, or someone going above and beyond for a patient in need.  Not only do we post these for all of our employees to see, but we also post who submitted them, giving them a chance to thank their coworker for saying what they did.

3.  The lack of a PIO — The Public Information Officer is one of the most important roles in an organization.  They are responsible not only for communicating during tragedies and responding to press inquiries, but they are also there to do community outreach.  They’re there to let the public know what we are doing, and how we are doing it.  One constant failure of the EMS industry that almost constantly chews away at me is the lack of public education that is out there.  Far too often, we are referred to as “ambulance drivers” or “EMS workers” and that is no one’s fault but our own.  We live under this veil of secrecy, and a perceived fear of HIPAA laws with a mentality that “no news is good news.”  Well, the police department survives even though they seem to be a constant focus of bad press, and a fire department with a strong PIO will be the shining star of a community.

While there are plenty more steps that we could take to better recognize and put our people out there for the public to see, this is a great start.  Set your goals so that your people know what is expected of them.  Give your employees a voice to let you know what they are seeing their workers doing.  Finally, give someone the responsibility of communicating with the public to help put a face on the professionals that will walk through the door in their time of need.

Above all else, remember that those people that step on the trucks are your greatest asset.