The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently announced that it is taking comments on the EMS Agenda for the Future. First addressed in 1996, the agenda was developed to chart the course of EMS in the rapidly changing healthcare environment. One of the key tenets was that EMS would be “community-based health management that is fully integrated with the overall healthcare system.”1
While it certainly appears that this is the path that EMS is following, it is even more impressive to think that the group of individuals who served on the steering committee as well as all of the contributors to the document had the knowledge and foresight to predict what the future would hold. People such as Drew Dawson, Chief Jack Krakeel, Dan Manz and Dr. Robert Suter (just to name a few) served on the steering committee, while Dr. Lori Moore-Merrell, Dr. Marilyn Gifford, Dr. Robert Bass, Bill Brown, Tom Judge, David Bryson, Leslee Stein-Spencer, Captain Don Lee, Jeff Dyar, Chief Mary Beth Michos, Peter Dworsky, Dr. Gregg Margolis, and many others participated in the Blue Ribbon Conference.2
All of the individuals who participated in this process were, and in some cases still are, leaders in the EMS profession. Their names are recognizable and their dedication and commitment to EMS is second to none. They were about vision, they were about the mission and, above all, they were about EMS providing outstanding patient care, then and now.
So, here we are in 2016, and the agenda is scheduled for a revision and update. My guess is that some of the names from the previous group will show up in the appendices of this updated agenda, as their commitment to the profession is unchanged. But who’s next? Who are the up-and-comers who will participate in this process to chart the future for the next generation of EMS professionals? Better yet, have we done our job to ensure that there are those people who want to participate and have a say?
Have we done enough succession planning for the future of EMS? We all work toward this in our own organizations, but we should be doing the same for the profession as a whole. We travel around the country to meetings and conferences, we read the trade journals and we post on the EMS websites and blogs. Many times, we see the same names across the entire spectrum. I have to ask, who will be the next A.J. Heightman, Susan McHenry, Matt Zavadsky, Lori Moore-Merrell, Gary Ludwig, Richard Patrick, or John Sinclair?
In order to ensure that EMS continues to move forward as a profession, we—the leaders of today—must groom the leaders of tomorrow. We have spent a great deal of our professional lives working hard to get EMS to where it is today, and we certainly don’t want to have done all of that for naught. There are some out there, such as Shaughn Maxwell, Tom Bouthillet and Chad Deardorff, who all are already doing great things for EMS. I’m sure if we start looking, we’ll find that there are a number of up-and-coming EMS professionals out there who are just waiting for the opportunity, or maybe a nudge, to step up into EMS leadership roles.
It is our responsibility to find these people, get them involved, mentor them and make sure they are prepared to take EMS to the next level. Whether it is with a local or state organization, or at the national level with organizations such as the National Association of State EMS Officials (NASEMSO), the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians (NAEMT), the National EMS Management Association (NEMSMA), the National Association of EMS Physicians (NAEMSP), etc., it is imperative that we have a succession plan in place. If we think even bigger, we can find those individuals who aspire to be even more and get them on the path to take leadership roles at NHTSA, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Homeland Security.
While NHTSA works on updating the EMS Agenda for the Future, we need to work on our own agenda. It all starts with the question, “Who’s next?”
1. EMS Agenda for the Future. (1996). Executive Summary. NHTSA. Retrieved May 5, 2016, from http://www.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/ems/agenda/emsman.html#SUMMARY
2. EMS Agenda for the Future. (1996). Appendix I. NHTSA. Retrieved May 5, 2016, from http://www.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/ems/agenda/emsman.html#INDEXI