Ask a group of EMS managers and supervisors to define professionalism, and you will get a variety of answers. Some consider professionalism as getting paid to provide a service or managing a group of people. Others regard professionalism as just showing up to work. There are those who belong to an association who take their membership as proof of professionalism. What is your definition of being a professional? Can you clearly explain your description and how it relates to your actions and activities as an EMS manager? Do your actions demonstrate your commitment to being a professional?
To a great degree, most EMS managers are developed based on their experiences, either as a worker who had a good or a bad boss. Those positive or negative experiences contributed to how they approach their job. Which of those influences would you consider to have impacted you the most? Would you consider them to be professional? Job experience, training and education all contribute to your management style and are a part of who you are.
To some, being a professional is a just a title. I believe, however, it is a lifestyle. Becoming an EMS professional requires many things in life, and they all assimilate into those attributes that demonstrate professionalism. I believe that every professional has five key values in their makeup.
Integrity: This value is clearly at the top of my list. It requires the most work and is the hardest for anyone to achieve on a consistent basis. Integrity is your words and actions, consistently demonstrating your beliefs and principles. For example, if you don t allow sexual harassment in your workplace but don t say anything to another supervisor when a sexual joke is told to you or a group of men at work, that is not following your beliefs. Worse would be for you to tell that same joke to another person. Integrity requires a person to be responsible for their values and to hold true to those beliefs. It also involves being honest both at work and in your personal life.
Ethics: You might refer to this as your moral code. Do you make the same decisions alone that you would if someone were watching your actions? Ethics is more than just doing right or wrong. It begins with how you feel and is displayed by your actions. Following an ethical path does not usually fit in today s society. It seems that every year the expectations of work standards and customer service seem to drop. Your character needs to be impervious to attacks from others who want to keep you at a less than high level.
Respect: Respect begins within yourself. You must first show respect to yourself to be able to demonstrate it to others. It is those common courtesies that display your attitude toward others that results in earning the respect of others. To always be fair and consistent in how you interact with your co-workers, employees, customers, family and friends establishes a clear picture of your values.
Commitment: A professional has a commitment to every aspect of excellence performance. Professionals are hardest on themselves to be the best example of behavior and model those characteristics and traits they desire in others. Commitment means consistent attempts to make yourself better through training and education. It also involves going outside your organization to learn from other people in the industry and sharing your experiences to help make EMS better. A commited person views failures as a learning opportunity rather than a catastrophe.
Vision: Professionals have an ability to see how things should be rather than what they actually are. They are able to perform strategic evaluations to determine what steps are taken to reach certain goals. They are not satisfied with the status quo. They prefer change change that enhances the system or situation or helps people. Others who are content with average to below average performance do not distract these professionals.
Howard Gardner, in the March 2007 Harvard Business Review makes a profound statement, "If you are not prepared to resign or be fired for what you believe in, then you are not a worker, let alone a professional. You are a slave."
How much do you believe in those words and actions you make on a daily basis? Do your actions back up your beliefs? EMS needs as many professionals as possible to continue to develop future leaders. The road to being a professional is a journey and not a destination. Working to be a professional requires constant effort and is usually more enjoyable with friends. Surround yourself with good friends who support your expedition, and take some along with you.