Richard Huff, NREMT, is focused on getting EMS providers to provide care with empathy, and he’s doing it one class at a time. This is Huff’s EMS Empathy Mission.
In 2018, Huff focused on building empathic communications in providers with the belief that many prehospital care situations can be improved if EMS providers focus more on talking with the patient rather than at them. The focus of the effort is, initially, on classes and he intends to expand the mission on all social platforms in the coming months.
“Working empathy into the prehospital care communications routine can enhance the patient’s experience,” Huff says. “We all know from our experience in the field that when a call goes well, we as care providers also feel better. Being an empathetic provider can help on both sides of the equation.”
Having examined the gaps in education, Huff has created engaging classes designed to enhance the skills of today’s providers, specifically in the areas of bedside manners, empathy and leadership. He develops and produces the class on his own, using his own resources, and presents these programs to conferences including EMS Today and the New Jersey Statewide Conference on EMS and for free to local organizations.
Living by the motto that knowledge is useless unless it’s shared, Huff also believes that education doesn’t have to be boring. What separates him from the run-of-the-mill slide readers is that he listens—to his students and to other EMS providers.
According to Huff, most interactions can be improved by better, empathetic communications. Having identified shortfalls in how those skills are taught in initial training, he’s focused on initiatives to improve the way EMS providers interact with patients, which is at the heart of his EMS Empathy Mission.
“Having a good bedside manner is a lost art in prehospital care. Empathy should be part of those skills,” Huff says. “Although splinting and bandaging is important, we need to improve our communications with those we serve. Part of this is reading the patient and understanding what they are going through at the time. We need to sense their emotions. We need to listen, we need to care about our patients, and, above all, we need to use empathy when we talk with them.”
Huff is just as focused on increasing his own knowledge so he can be more value to those he’s trying to teach. This past fall, Huff earned a certificate in Healthcare Design at the New School in New York City and is working those skills into new classes.
A New Jersey and nationally registered EMT since 2005, Huff, a three-time ex-chief of the Atlantic Highlands First Aid Squad, is also a member of the N.J. EMS Task Force and serves as the organization’s public information officer. His goal for his classes is to not only reach those in the room but for those people to take the information back to their squads.
“For me, a class is successful if I can connect with those in the room in such a way they go back to their colleagues and say, ‘I heard something in a class I think we should try,’” Huff says. “I want them to leave my classes inspired and thinking about how they, too, can make those around them better.”