NEMSMA Develops National EMS Officer Competencies


The National EMS Management Association (NEMSMA) has spent the past two years developing a set of national EMS officer competencies to provide future leaders with the tools they need to be successful. In the interest of the profession, the competencies will be made available to the entire EMS community, not just NEMSMA members.


NEMSMA is a professional association of EMS leaders dedicated to the discovery, development and promotion of excellence in leadership and management of EMS systems, regardless of system model, organizational structure or agency affiliation.


The project was a significant undertaking with a laudable goal. “We are going to set a path for the future of EMS,” says Ryan Greenberg, division chief of Hackensack (N.J.) University Medical Center EMS and chair of NEMSMA’s Leadership Competencies Project.


The issues addressed by NEMSMA include a lack of measurable expectations for EMS leaders, plus the fact that there is no national standardized training for leaders and thus no clear path for advancement for future leaders. NEMSMA determined that what is needed is a definition of leadership duties to prepare new managers and allow those working their way up the ranks to decide if they really want to take a leadership job in the first place. If so, what core competencies are needed to achieve this goal?


The committee developed the competencies in two parts: First it identified the levels of leadership; then it developed the expected educational, performance and improvement requirements for each level. These include basic leadership skills and traits, augmented with specific EMS knowledge. Individual organizations can supplement the training with their particular needs.


The committee identified three officer levels:


“¢ Supervising offcers who provide frstline supervision to EMTs and paramedics in the field.


“¢ Managing offcers who are responsible for managing major components of EMS organizations, or serve as division or unit heads or staff specialists responsible for administrative and clinical functions in EMS organizations.


“¢ Executive offcers who provide general management and top-level leadership to an EMS organization.


As part of the oversight process, the committee presented its work to another NEMSMA committee for review. “We felt we needed a second–and in some cases third–set of eyes to meet the various needs of the people in our profession,” Greenberg says. The feedback was rewarding. “Reviewers stated it was more comprehensive than they expected,” he says.


Next steps


Now that the leadership competencies are in the final preparation stages before release, the committee’s next step will be to work on a credentialing process. “That’s down the road,” Greenberg says.


The EMS officer leadership curriculum will be built around the competencies while taking into account EMS leaders’ often busy schedules. “Part of the beauty is that we are not limiting where they get that training, as long as it meets the credentials. What we are hoping for is a variety of curriculum and a variety of learning applications–not just classroom-based, but a blended learning environment,” Greenberg says. “We don’t see people replacing education. We see a standardization occurring.” He hopes that the first course will be ready to launch by fall 2014.


Greenberg acknowledges that the work of developing the competencies and curriculum will never be wholly complete. “The expectations of an EMS leader will change in the next five to ten years. We want this to be a living, breathing document,” he says.


According to Greenberg, the impetus for the project was NEMSMA’s Management and Leadership Development in America: An Agenda for the Future. “We felt this is a critical part of the development of our profession. Many times managers don’t even know what is expected of them. We are really excited to provide this. Hopefully, it is only step one in helping [EMS] move forward,” he says.


Additional information about this project, including the competencies once released, can be found at the NEMSMA website (


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