The Next Generation

The EMS Manager


David S. Becker | | Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The number of retirees in the United States is expected to increase by tenfold in the next five to 10 years, including those of you who are in charge of an EMS organization. When you move up in rank and progress in your career, you may briefly think about the day you ll retire. But for most of us, the time will sneak up and take us by surprise. Is your agency ready for the change, or will the change in leadership create a void? For both those who are ready to retire and those who may take on a leadership role, here are some tips to consider in your preparation for that unavoidable day.

Make your replacements

A path to management is not a straight line; different people take different paths in becoming a supervisor. One of those paths involves leadership ability, which is a learned behavior. Good or bad, the lessons you learned shaped how you are as a manager and, likewise, the examples you present to your employees set the stage for future managers and supervisors. Therefore, your vision and actions should challenge your employees to provide the best service and encourage them to deliver quality care to their patients, developing ethics of pride in their work and investment in team success that can carry over to a leadership role.

For others, leadership evolves from on-the-job training. After several years of working in the field, some employees will be selected to mentor new employees, as in the case of a field training officer. The roles and responsibilities of this position creates an opportunity for an employee to assess their capability to direct other employees performance and the operations of the organization. From this position, the employee aspires to move up into more senior positions and accept more responsibility and accountability for operations.

Consider also the level of certification. You re on scene at a call, providing care to a sick or injured patient. You re confident in your skills because you ve completed the EMT or paramedic certification program and have several years field experience. But does your patient need you to have a degree? Does your organization need you to have a degree? Do you have a personal need to have degree? Your answers may vary depending on your situation, but for anyone interested in being in charge of the organization, the answers should be yes. Most organizations now require managers and supervisors to have some college education and usually a degree. Plus, completion of college courses not only teaches new ideas or facts, it helps improve communication skills a constant necessity in the field.

When looking for the next generation of EMS managers and supervisors, you ll notice that some have values that are different than most current managers. The younger generation of managers tends to seek a more balanced life and is not focused on career achievement. They tend to not see the rewards of hard work, aware of managers who are overworked, often abused, and in many cases penalized for moving the organization forward. This perception can lead to a reluctance to step up and become a supervisor when the opportunity presents itself.

One way to help avoid this reluctance is to begin succession planning. Even if you still have 10 or more years left in charge, it s not too early to begin the process of developing the next generation of managers for your organization. Identify those employees who exhibit leadership and get them involved in the organization. Promote their self-development and encourage them to take the necessary steps to get the educational background in place before the need arises for them to assume a supervisory position. Demonstrate to them the importance of being a good leader and the rewards that it brings.

Allow mid-level managers the opportunity to be involved in the development of the organization and make sure they understand the big picture and not just focus on a single action. Get these employees involved in meeting other professionals from whom they learn new lessons about leadership. Encourage attendance at state and national conferences and the review of EMS publications for the most current trends.

Once a mind has been expanded, it can never go back to its original size. Expand the minds and hearts of your employees and make it your mission to ensure that your successors are prepared to lead the organization.

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Related Topics: Leadership and Professionalism

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