Quality requires commitment. When it comes to EMS agencies, quality is the result of the commitment of its members. When that commitment dwindles, I often wonder why it was lost or whether it was present in the agency to begin with. Although I'm sure there is just as many agencies that do have a true commitment to EMS, I want to discuss some of those groups within EMS agencies that, at times, fail to demonstrate a true commitment to the delivery of emergency medical care. I also want to provide suggestions to each group on how to be more committed to serving others and not themselves.
The first group on my list is elected officials. Although their intentions may have been honorable when first elected, over time they sometimes lose sight of the mission of an EMS agency. Because they have been given duties and responsibilities through legislation and because no one has any control over their actions except to eventually elect someone else they often run amok in their attempts to govern. In some cases, these boards or commissions hire or promote incompetent people into management positions so they have puppets to carry out their wishes.
Even if they have quality managers under them, these officials don't or won't listen to their suggestions on how best to provide a good service or demonstrate care for their employees. In some cases, they impede progress by treating their employees so poorly that it results in constant turnover.
Suggestions: If you're an elected official, it's not your job to manage the organization on a daily basis or treat it like it's your personal business. Leave your personal agenda at home and just do the right thing. Make sure the service has money to operate and don't spend your time figuring out how to get personal perks and gratuities. Your goal should be to ensure that the agency is in better shape than when you started.
The second target on my list is those managers who are not leaders. These are people who aren't interested in their employees or the quality of care they provide. Their main goal is to keep their job by following every direction or order given by the elected officials or other supervisors, even when service to citizens or employees suffers as a result. In some cases, these managers let their egos get in the way of their commitment to the agency by making decisions that benefit them personally but don't benefit those who depend on them.
Suggestions: You owe it to your employees and customers to make sure the organization is prepared and equipped to meet an emergency that requires your assistance. Your commitment must be to provide the best trained and equipped service possible based on your funding and personnel. Don't just be a caretaker who comes in and puts in time until retirement or until a new job comes along. Seek ways to improve the service and make sure it's constantly improving and progressing. Lead by example and show your employees what it means to have a commitment to the profession and to your agency.
The final group on my list is the employees. Your level of commitment may be determined by whether you're a new or a long-suffering employee. In many cases, people run out of gas over time and don't always have the same passion as when they started. It's always easier to focus on the job's negative aspects or do the minimum while on duty. But you don't have to be the person who encourages others to do the same. Does it really matter if you spend an hour every morning cleaning out the back of the ambulance after the other crew left it a mess and didn't bother to clean it themselves? It should matter to you, and it should be important that you do whatever is necessary to be professional.
Suggestions: Don't spend your time complaining about how bad things are. Get involved in making things better. Every day at work should be seen as an opportunity to make a difference, and being prepared helps in keeping your commitment to excellence. Seek out training and take every opportunity to learn something new; it will help keep you fresh and energized about the job you do each day.
You likely only have a short time to get to ride in an ambulance, be a manager or serve as an elected official. Before you know it, you'll have missed the opportunity to contribute to making your profession better. Demonstrate your commitment and passion, and others will often follow suit or increase their own commitment. Consider this quote from Margaret Mead: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."