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Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

Do you remember your first day on the job or the first time you showed up to volunteer? Remember the nervousness and excitement of your first call? Do you still feel the thrill of helping others, or are you now a seasoned veteran who s not affected by anything you see or do at work?

After a period of time, our experiences can change the way we approach work, and we can get comfortable with going to work and doing what is necessary to collect a paycheck. Just showing up for work and doing the same thing each day becomes easier the longer you re in a position. To avoid this pitfall, challenge yourself to step out of your comfort zone. The following are some areas to watch to help protect your career and, perhaps, to give more meaning to what it is you do.

Attitude: Do you enjoy going to work, or do you look forward to your days off to escape the grind? Being a professional is a great deal about attitude. Certainly, many factors can affect attitude, including work and personal issues. In turn, your attitude toward your coworkers, supervisors and patients affects your daily performance. Ask yourself what you like about your job and what you don t like. Then, to what extent can you change or modify those things you don t like? Do you appreciate the things you do like about your job? If it s your coworkers, do you tell them they make a difference? Take a serious look at yourself, and make sure your attitude isn t interfering with your performance. Going to work should be enjoyable, and you can improve things if you try.

Awareness: Are you aware of your status within the organization? Aside from your regular performance evaluations, you should be aware of how others value you. Recognize how your actions, or lack of action, can result in professional problems, which in some cases can lead to an employee termination. Being aware means not taking your job for granted and recognizing that having a job means giving your best effort.

Adaptability: How comfortable are you with change? If you ve been in the same job for a number of years, have you kept up with industry changes? The delivery of EMS continues to evolve and be dynamic, and many improvements have increased the level of patient care. Have you and your organization stayed current, or are you the last one to get up to speed? Perhaps taking a college class or working on a degree will create more opportunities for you to grow professionally.

Involvement: Is what you do just a job? Many of us know people who have lost interest in their jobs, people who complain about any situation that requires them to work. In some cases, they take their frustrations out on patients or family members. They don t attempt to stay current on EMS procedures and make minimal effort during training classes. Their negative energy drains the people around them and can bring others down to their level of apathy. Just going through the motions is not the action of a professional. Don t let yourself get into this rut at work. Take initiative on a project or program to help the organization or increase the quality of service to your patients. Remember, you get out what you put in.

If you realize that your comfort zone is limiting your professional growth or personal happiness, you may need to take drastic steps to change where you are today. The key to success is to step out of your comfort zone: Make things uncomfortable for a period of time and learn how to become comfortable again with your new set of circumstances or expectations. Your personal growth can have a positive impact on your approach to professional obligations.

You can start by developing a vision of where you want to be in the future. For some people, this may involve becoming a supervisor in their EMS organization or advancing their provider skill level. Steps to these advancements involve active participation in the organization and self-preparation to meet the requirements of the title. For others, their hope for the future is to continue doing the same job for the rest of their lives. If this level of comfort is where they work best, their personal fulfillment should come from making positive contributions to the agency within that role. Either way, the best way to change is slowly, a little at a time. Don t try to make major changes all at once.

I once had a college professor tell me that managers should change jobs every three years. He reasoned that in three years you would have done everything there is to do in that job, and after that time you would just repeat yourself. This idea may prove true in the business world, but I ve found that being in an EMS job longer than three years gives you the opportunity to try new things and be involved in changes to the organization.

Most people in the field of EMS are drawn to the unpredictable workday, even those in management. Challenge yourself to find new ways to do your job better, be open to change and look forward to going to work. When you get the chance, step out of your comfort zone and see what great things you can accomplish.


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