Using and Understanding EMS Buzzwords

Business jargon has entered the EMS world, and it’s not going away



Gary Ludwig, MS, EMT-P | From the June 2013 Issue | Wednesday, May 8, 2013

As I attended a meeting the other day, I noticed the speaker kept using buzzwords—words that sound so authoritative or technical and have worked their way into management culture. I couldn’t help but think how these words and phrases have also worked their way into the EMS profession and how, from time to time, I catch myself using buzzwords when I make a comment to someone.

Why do I feel the need to use these buzzwords? Am I trying to sound authoritative or well educated? Am I trying to impress someone? Or am I just caught up in the whirlwind of using words that I have heard others use?

To understand the use of buzzwords, I guess I could “reach out to someone” to get a better understanding. But before I could do that I would have to devise a “reverse retrograde action” to get out of the meeting I was currently sitting in.

Speaking the Jargon
The use of buzzwords is commonplace among EMS managers these days. Many of us have experienced less revenue coming into our agencies throughout the last several years, mostly due to the economic downturn and insurance providers seemingly becoming less willing to pay for things.

As a result, many of us have had to “downsize” our operations and “rebrand” some of the things we do. We have also had to become more “patient centric” in the process. By becoming more “patient centric” we have had to look at “reinventing” how we run our EMS organizations. We find ourselves trying to hit “benchmarks” and “core competencies” in “quality care” while still trying to “herd cats.”

It’s not easy being an EMS manager these days. You can almost say EMS managers have had to resort to “knowledge process outsourcing” and, on some occasions, we find ourselves doing “conflict resolution.”

In order to adapt to the “changing workforce,” EMS managers have had to adapt to new management practices by “thinking outside the box.” This includes “empowering” our EMS employees and doing more “face time” so that we can create “win-win” situations for us, our employees and the patients we treat and transport. EMTs and paramedics who still “miss the mark” have usually found themselves in “coachable moments” with their EMS manager or supervisor.

EMS managers who do not perform well have found themselves developing “survival strategies” and “leveraging” themselves in the event they are “separated from the service.”

Buzzwords have even worked their way into our EMS operational vernacular. What major city has not had to deal with a “surge”—when more people call 9-1-1 than we have ambulances? And during civil disturbances, when we align the police with ambulances, we call it “force protection.” During major events such as Hurricane Sandy, we saw the new buzzword of “crowdsourcing” emerge, where the collection of individuals, communities and interests can be either a very powerful enemy or asset, depending on the situation. During powerful and “high-intensity” events, EMS managers should also use “accountability” to ensure their personnel are safe and nothing adverse has happened to them.

They’re Everywhere
EMS training hasn’t escaped the buzzword explosion either. We now develop students with “critical thinking” skills through “outcome-based education.” The goal of EMS educators is to provide “mastery learning” through “world class standards” with the “end goal” of producing “higher-order thinking skills.” I walked into the training academy at the Memphis Fire Department one day and found my instructors doing “gamification” with the students by playing Jeopardy with questions about module 3 of their paramedic textbook.

I predict with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, EMS systems will have to shift to another “paradigm” and “think outside the box” on how we deliver care. We’re already seeing the emergence of change through “outcome-based medicine” and the “interoperability” of systems merging and working together to share healthcare data. Hospitals and Accountable Care Organizations in the future will be pressured to decrease cost for patient care and should expect to see the acronym ALARP—“as low as reasonably possible.”

With the way healthcare will be changing throughout the next several years, EMS managers will need to look at the way they do business from the “30,000-foot level.” Don’t forget to do a “360-degree evaluation” of your EMS organization because of the “megadigm” that will result with healthcare changes. “Best practices” will certainly be the order of the day with the changes that we will see. But before you start making the major changes, you’ll probably need to go after the “low hanging fruit” first.

As I go about my daily job of running an EMS system, I know “at the end of the day” I need to keep my organization “cutting edge” so that we can remain “proactive” to the changes occurring within the EMS profession. If I fail, I know I will probably need to devise an “exit strategy” and “move forward” to another “opportunity.” Thankfully, I’ll always have my JEMS column. Therefore, I “thank you in advance” for reading this.

Connect: Have a thought or feedback about this? Add your comment now
Related Topics: Administration and Leadership, Leadership and Professionalism, key words, jargon, ems leadership, buzzwords, business words, adapting, Jems Leadership Sector

Author Thumb

Gary Ludwig, MS, EMT-P

is a deputy fire chief with the Memphis (TN) Fire Department. He has over 35 years of fire, EMS, and rescue experience. He is also the immediate past Chair of the EMS Section for the IAFC. He can be reached at


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