Alice laughed. "There's no use trying," she said. "One can't believe impossible things."
"I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."
When was the last time you believed six impossible things before breakfast, or even in one day? As an EMS manager, how often do you engage in believing impossible things for your organization, and the EMS profession? Are you an out-of-the-box thinker? Do you imagine what new and exciting actions or events could occur given the opportunity and effort? Or is your "world" the same every day, year after year? Here's a short list to help determine if you and your organization are moving forward or stuck in a rut. Included are some suggestions on how you can begin to believe in the impossible for yourself and for EMS.
Have you conducted a needs assessment of your community to determine if you are providing all the services they might need from you? Organizations often have myopic vision and fail to look around to see what else they could be doing in their community. A needs assessment helps you determine what other services could be delivered by your organization. In some cases, the delivery of non-traditional services may benefit both your organization and your community. Some EMS agencies are looking at way to help in the delivery of public health and prevention services to promote wellness in their community.
Do you seek feedback from your patients not just on the quality of service, but if there was anything additional they felt they needed from your service? You would be surprised by listening to your critics as well as those who support you, when it comes to evaluating the quality of your service. In some cases, those critical looks can provide you with an additional vision about ways to better deliver service. Don't just mail out a flyer or postcard and hope you get a written response. Make some phone calls and talk with your patients to get a real first hand view of their impression of your service and seek suggestions on ways to improve.
Have you added any services you provide to your community in the past two years or past five years? Is your service stuck in a rut and delivering the same level and quality of care it has done in the past? Certainly EMS has made tremendous strides in just the past five years. If your organization is not keeping up, you need to figure out how to get back on track.
Is your service involved in community activities? Are you and your personnel known for being available to assist in community development? It doesn't matter if your organization is large or small as to how involved in the community your organization is. What matters is that you are leading by example and demonstrating to your people the importance of volunteering and being active in the community? Does the community see your members helping the community grow and be a good place to live? You can't hide in the station or in your ambulances and never interact with the public. Invite the public into your EMS stations and show them what is special about the services you provide.
Is there a service you provide now that the service wasn't providing 20 years ago? The answer to this question should be a definite yes. EMS has evolved over the past 35 years, and the way your service delivered emergency medical services in 1986 should not be the way you deliver service today.
What new and innovative things do you have planned for the future? Do you have a "Master Plan" that outlines where you see your service in the next five, 10 to 20 years? The old saying is true that "if you don't know where you are going, it doesn't matter where you end up." If you don't plan for your future, will you end up where you need to be? Often you can't forecast innovation, especially long-term. However, you can have a vision that requires the organization to be more active and quick to respond to the needs of your community.
EMS needs more people to be out-of-the box thinkers and believe in the impossible. As a relatively new profession, we don't have the limitations of hundreds of years of tradition to break. There will be many changes to EMS in the coming decades, and those who dare to believe in doing the impossible will be the ones who make a difference. I wish I could tell you this is the easy road to success, but it's not. It's the most difficult, and it can be especially demanding to believe in the impossible and then try to make changes based on those impossible beliefs.
So here's your homework assignment for this month. As you end this year and begin to think about 2007, spend some time imagining the impossible for your organization, your community and yourself. Take at least 30 minutes to write down any wild or new idea that comes to mind. Perhaps you might make this a group exercise. The key here is to get input from as many people as you can and then continue to encourage your staff to imagine impossible new actions for your organization. You may begin to discover that imagining impossible things is not as hard as you once thought, and it may create new opportunities to enhance your world.