FTOs, by classic definition, help new practitioners transition into the realworld setting by bridging the cognitive information and psychomotor skills taught in the classroom with the standards of patient care delivered in the field. However, the diversified skill set of FTOs shouldn’t be isolated to the orientation of new hires alone.
Establishing a sound FTO program is key to meeting the increasing demand for progressive growth and development; in which, new providers and seasoned professionals alike must “develop an understanding of new scientific information, maintain psychomotor skills and keep up with advancing technology.”1 As such, the diverse skill set of FTOs should be utilized in various facets of everyday operations.
One of the best opportunities for utilizing FTOs is during the applicant screening process. FTO participation in this process can be a valuable tool for all involved: administration, FTOs and the candidates alike.
The mnemonic “LEADER” can set goals for FTOs participating in the hiring process.
During a normal hiring process, one person is limited in their time or interaction with each candidate. FTOs, on the other hand, can help to screen candidates and obtain more information than what might have been acquired by one person during a standard interview process. In addition, this interaction can help the candidate learn if they’re a fit for your agency.
FTOs can evaluate each candidate for clinical competency. By using prescribed skill stations and scenarios, FTOs can administer skills assessments to applicants to understand a candidate’s level of skill comprehension and clinical competency. Although most applicants can easily glide through a skills checklist, FTOs should be eager to ask clarifying questions. This allows FTOs to not only evaluate whether a candidate can perform a task but, also, why the candidate chose to perform a task in a particular way and what critical thinking was done to arrive at that conclusion.
A—ASSESSING THE AFFECTIVE
The affective domain describes learning in terms of feelings/emotions, attitudes and values. The affect of a candidate can be hard to assess with only limited interaction in the sterile environment of an office or classroom. Much like a wild animal is best observed in its natural habitat, EMS providers are very much the same; a candidate’s response to, or interaction with, stimuli (or affect) is best observed in a natural environment. However, incorporating FTOs into the hiring and evaluation processes allows employers to evaluate how each candidate interacts with different people and personalities.
After FTOs and administrators evaluate candidates, they can meet to discuss the performance of each applicant. In doing so, FTOs can work with administrators to develop a performance improvement plan for each candidate (if necessary). Just as each performance improvement plan is unique to each candidate, the team should use this process to decide if the candidate’s weaknesses can be remediated and, if so, which FTO would be best to help facilitate the new hire’s growth.
E—ENABLE & EDUCATE
Once a new hire is matched with a suitable FTO, the FTO can facilitate the education process in a conducive learning environment and can educate the new hire on skills or topics previously determined to be weak. A performance improvement plan should be developed to include learning objectives and measurable goals for future performance.
FTOs should continually reevaluate the performance of a new hire and be able to adapt their teaching and monitor for either success or failure. Failure, as indicated by poor performance, is a prime opportunity to change instructional methods. As such, an FTO who’s having difficulty teaching a particular concept to a new hire should search for alternative ways to approach the topic.
By incorporating FTOs in the many aspects of day-to-day operations, like new hire selection/ screening, administrators help FTOs build the skills necessary to become “LEADERs” in their agencies and prepare them for future growth. As EMS continues to grow and evolve, the need for high-quality education for prehospital providers will increase in an effort to keep up with the growing demands of their communities. It’s this multi-faceted approach that allows all involved to succeed.
1. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. EMS Agenda for the Future. Washington, D.C., p. 33, 1996.