Administration and Leadership, Patient Care

Ways EMS Providers Can Improve Morale

Issue 7 and Volume 38.

We have one of the best professions around, and if you’re reading this article I’m sure you’d agree. But let’s face it, sometimes things happen that make us a little less happy to come to work. Maybe it’s a new policy from management, difficulties with the emergency department staff, or even something as small as an unwanted shift change.

If enough of these little things happen for long enough, they can create a big problem: Poor morale. Though we are often powerless to address the root cause of the poor morale in our organization, we can help mitigate its effects by infusing our own positive actions into the workplace. Here are a few tips to help get your workplace back on track.

Tip 1: Maintain a good attitude. This may be difficult, especially in the face of everybody else’s poor attitudes. However, attitudes are infectious. Just look at how quickly that poor attitude has spread. Positive attitudes will do the same, and they will eventually take hold.

If you’re having a hard time mustering up a positive attitude, try to think about why you joined this profession. Remember the enjoyment it brings when you get to help people in need and the kinship we all share in this profession. If you feel like that’s not enough to put a smile on your face, try remembering the job you had before this. Mine was sales. It was horrible and it ended with me getting laid me off on Christmas Eve. It’s doubtful your current job is worse than what you left behind. Even when bad things happen and you think it might be better to quit, just remember how bad it was before and focus on the positives of what you have now.

Finally, focus on your own needs. Making sure that you are happy outside of work will help you to remain positive when you are at work.

Tip 2: Don’t involve yourself in battles. Emergency services by nature are staffed with passionate people. Although generally a good thing, there are some downsides. Like when a perceived wrong has been committed, a passionate response can almost always be expected. This often comes in the form of an idea as how to remedy the situation but can quickly become much more.

Unfortunately when these emotion-fueled responses get out of hand, they can at best damage a reputation and at worst jeopardize a job. Try to avoid these situations and don’t let yourself add to the problem. A helpful technique is to simply be a good listener. When your coworkers start venting, instead of offering solutions, try to employ empathy and active listening. Urge them (or yourself) to not make any decisions immediately. If you really have found a solution to a problem it will still be there long after the emotions are gone.

Tip 3: Take an active role in improving morale. When morale stinks it’s easy to sit around and muse about how bad morale is. It’s a negative cycle, but with a little work, it can be broken. One common approach is to find something you like to do off-duty and organize as many coworkers as you can to go do it with you. This works great for softball, camping, paintball or sharing a meal together. You can eat out if it’s a small enough group or plan a BBQ or picnic if your group is larger.

If turnout is an issue, you could try organizing an on-duty event, such as bring-a-movie-to-work night, or a Sunday morning breakfast ritual—the goal being to get the whole shift together when you do it. Even something like promoting National Breast Cancer Awareness Month as an organization is a start.

The foundation behind this is simple: The human mind likes to have positive things to look forward to. The anticipation is often enough to change moods, even if the actual event is small. It really is all about the little stuff.

Tip 4: If it’s too much, exit gracefully. If it’s really too much—you hate coming to work and you can’t see any change coming—well, this is an unfortunate situation. But it’s one I think many of us have faced it in our careers. If you have your mind set on leaving your current employer, do so with grace. We’ve all had dreams of telling the boss (or whomever the problem is with) off and in not so pleasant a term. But let’s face it, you probably will have to deal with them again, and it’s never worth it to burn that bridge.

Begin looking for a new job, but do so quietly. And keep doing your job well. Becoming retired-on-duty is a good way to get fired-out-of-a-duty. Besides, poor performance only makes you look bad and, in the end, negatively affects patient care.

In our profession, where we help people every single day, there’s no reason to not enjoy coming to work. Remind yourself of that as long as it takes to feel it inherently. Keep a positive attitude and make sure you don’t feed the workplace morale problem yourself. By keeping an eye on your own needs and making sure you’re keeping yourself happy, maintaining this positive attitude can be effortless. Setting the example by your own behavior will induce change in the moods of those around you, whether you know it or not. Good luck, stay safe and have fun out there.