Administration and Leadership, Columns

Supervising EMS Officers Display Social Responsibility Competencies

Issue 10 and Volume 41.

The National EMS Management Association (NEMSMA) rolled out the final beta test of the Supervising EMS Officer (SEMSO) credentialing exam in July. The exam is based primarily on the NEMSMA Seven Pillars of EMS Officer Competencies, discussed in this column over the past year.

The sixth pillar, Social Responsibility, is an important building block in the foundation of any profession. It’s made of the following components: civic responsibility, social knowledge, ethical processes, leading ethically and acting with integrity.

Civic Responsibility

As medical professionals we must be willing to take on civic responsibility—it’s core to our service. Competencies in this area include: communicating with and helping the community through civic action, adopting beneficial values, being a good example and social action.

The SEMSO must follow department or agency policy when interacting with members of the community, be certain not to exceed authority, and deliver the agency’s message effectively without causing unrest.

The SEMSO should ensure the organization presents a positive image during its everyday operations, at special events, and when collaborating with other agencies. The SEMSO must be able to respond appropriately to public information requests and is responsible for educating staff on the effective handling of these requests while still presenting a positive image to the community.

Social Knowledge

Competent SEMSOs appreciate the value of diversity—in the workplace and in the community they serve. This includes basic knowledge of its history, geography and demographics, the various cultural and ethnic groups that make up the population as well as the traditions and customs associated with these groups. It should also include a rudimentary understanding of the diverse cultural and religious perspectives.

A SEMSO can learn these details from leaders at community meetings and by participating in local celebrations and functions. SEMSOs should pass on the knowledge they learn and ensure staff is guided and trained appropriately.

Ethical Processes

The competent SEMSO respects opposing viewpoints and values trust as an important facet of the organization and the community they serve.

The SEMSO should encourage an open dialogue, provide fair and consistent feedback, and communicate the reasoning behind decisions in a respectful way that ensures understanding. Staff actions should be evaluated to verify compliance with expected behavioral standards, and the competent SEMSO should take corrective actions as needed.

Leading Ethically

A competent SEMSO will provide the support and resources to assist employees in completing their work assignments, address staff concerns, and keep in mind the best interests of everyone who works for the agency, regardless of their rank or seniority.

The SEMSO must respect the various cultural beliefs and customs of all their employees, and ensure coworkers are educated on and respect the values, opinions and beliefs of their coworker—even when these beliefs differ from their own.

When recognizing or rewarding staff for performance, the recognition must be fair, consistent, and aligned with the organization’s values, policies and mission. The selection process must be transparent and should never give an appearance of favoritism or discrimination. This will not only guide the SEMSO to lead ethically, but it provides a supportive environment for staff and ensures that all employees have the opportunity to succeed.

Remember that SEMSOs influence the behavior of subordinates and hold themselves accountable for their behavior in a quest to ensure all employees are treated appropriately. The SEMSO should never allow exploitation or bullying.

Acting with Integrity

SEMSOs take action to reduce waste in daily operations and act as a model for financial responsibility. For example, if crews overstock due to a fear of running out of supplies, the SEMSO should ensure crews always have what they need so they don’t feel the need to horde.

It’s important that the SEMSO is consistently honest and displays the highest level of integrity, committing to and complying with ethical standards, acepting personal accountability and ensuring subordinates do as well—even when decisions may be unpopular.


One of the key characteristics of professional behavior in medicine is the concept of a “calling to serve.” An important dimension of this is recognizing social responsibility.

We’re given the authority to provide care to those we serve, and we must always behave in socially responsible ways that demonstrate we’re worthy of people’s trust by being ethical, caring, compassionate, altruistic, and putting others’ needs ahead of our own.

If we want to be treated like professionals, we have to behave like professionals. Demonstrating social responsibility is an important part of professional behavior.