They say if you’ve seen one EMS system, you’ve seen one EMS system. Did we really think MIH-CP would be any different? Communities deserve services matching their unique needs, so we shouldn’t be alarmed at the variety of MIH-CP programs. However, it does beg the question: How do you know if you’re doing it right? There’s no single defining result, invention, moment or activity that can determine the validity or value of a program; however, there are certain attributes that make a program excel.
1. The Right Purpose
Chances are you already have a laundry list of potential community needs and social issues you see a need to address. Perhaps those needs are illustrated through data or organizational requests for help. Needs may also be anecdotal, requiring innovative measurement strategies to validate them. Conducting a formal needs assessment will help you prioritize community needs above general trends or professional pressure. Working for the right purpose will lead to the highest personal and professional satisfaction.
2. The Right People
Success of your program will depend greatly on having the right people involved. You’ll need executive sponsorship, medical director support and the right team of community paramedics. MIH-CP program managers often mention they have trouble finding the right person. If you have this issue, consider holding the position open until an ideal candidate comes along. People not suitable—or not interested—in being a community paramedic leave your program at risk. Set aside seniority and, above all, look for discipline, compassion, enjoyment of work and an agile mind.
3. The Right Culture
The culture shift from 9-1-1 response to community-based work is drastic, and the right team is essential to propagating a successful culture. Culture will define the collective work ethic and coping mechanisms of the program. Although community paramedics work within the framework set by industry standards and regulations, these standards aren’t comprehensive enough to govern behavior in the new frontiers of patient needs addressed by MIH-CPprograms. A healthy program culture will bridge across program vulnerabilities and keep your agency safe.
4. The Right Structure
The structure of your program—chain of command, policies and procedures, core measurements, health information management, intelligence management, and technology—is one of the most tangible aspects of an MIH-CP program. Resources to guide program structure are increasingly available as organizations across the country work together to define essential program components and establish best practices.
5. The Right Craft
“Craft” refers to the special skills required to cause change at the patient, local, state or federal level. At the patient level, craft is composed of assessment techniques, personal skills or other skills that facilitate change in a patient’s behavior or situation. This requires research alongside specialized training. At the local, state and federal levels, craft is bridging the divide between a vulnerable individual and public policy—acting as advocates for effective policies and scopes of practice that will improve the lives of your community members.
6. The Right Partners
It’s important to avoid territorial thinking or competition when serving your patients. Always keep the focus on your purpose and your patients, and work in the spirit of collaboration. Build partnerships with organizations to strengthen your efforts and help to alleviate patient suffering. And remember, your purpose, craft and culture will be vital in attracting the right partners. Additionally, take every opportunity to share knowledge, expertise and experiences with sister programs in other communities.
As you build your program, you’ll be met with inevitable challenges that will stretch you and stress you. The best way to tackle big problems is through small, deliberate and simple steps. In time, these small steps will build upon each other and lay the framework for powerful MIH-CP programs.
Anne Marie Jensen, EMT-P, is the Resource Access Program coordinator for San Diego EMS—Rural/Metro of San Diego and San Diego Fire-Rescue Department. She received a California EMS Authority Award in 2010 for her work in EMS-related technology and was selected as 2012 paramedic of the year by her peers.