Thoughts on Managing Paramedics in a Remote Setting

Star of LifeIn 27 years working in EMS, I have had the opportunity to not only talk to multiple Managers/Supervisors of EMS personnel, but also to have spent several years being one of those Managers/Supervisors to varying degrees. A common theme that has been around since I started in this business is: Managing Paramedics is most closely related to “Herding Cats”. They are some of the most willful, opinionated, strongest type “A” personalities you will ever have the pleasure of working with. I say this with love as I am one of them.

Managing these great folks in an urban environment where they are working spread out over a large metropolitan area is challenging enough. Now take those same medics and send them 1000-3000 miles away to a remote camp in the middle of the Arctic Circle, or off to a foreign country and still endeavor to be an efficient and supportive Manager. It is a whole lot more challenging than being able to walk down the hall or even meet up at the local hospital to talk to and support your team members. In such remote environments, management becomes even more important than more traditional office/field environments, and calls for different or enhanced skills to effectively do the job and to facilitate providing the best care possible to the clients that we serve.

Communication

Effective CommunicationCommunicating is always the first key to success, but becomes even more critical in a remote working environment.

Do not assume that because your workforce is “remote”, that you will have less communication. In fact, the opposite is true.  Remote workers have the potential to feel isolated, may have difficulty in following SOP’s without direct supervision close by, or become unwilling to work in a “team” environment. I think these things are just human nature, only amplified for us medics.

Regular and consistent communication with remote medics can help to counteract these things. It is not all that difficult to accomplish in this “technical age” with various and easy ways to communicate. For example, Email, text, phone, fax, Facebook messenger, and countless other ways that this technologically challenged medic has probably not even heard of.

Be aware, however, that electronic communication does not include voice inflection, facial expressions, etc., that a face to face communication has. Just be aware of this when using humor in these forms of communications, as it may not come across the same in an email as it would in person. This is just something for you to think about. I am guilty frequently of this, by the way.

It is also even more important for Managers to be more accessible to remote medics in the field. Be more flexible with your time to help alleviate some of the “feelings of isolation” issues that invariably arise. Remote managers need to make sure they are accessible to their employees by multiple avenues, and also flexible with their time within reason. More so than in normal “EMS” circumstances.

Create a “Team” atmosphere

Being part of the team increases morale, motivation, job satisfaction, and creates company success for all.

As a manager, it is important to always be focused on maintaining a “team” environment for all staff members. This works best by communication as mentioned above. Also, at every opportunity that presents itself, get together as a group, even if it has nothing to do with work. Have dinner and/or drinks; find off work interests/activities that you can do as a group whenever possible.

Respect

Good Managers respect their medics and foster respect from them as well. They have “been there, done that” and should know what the job entails and keep this in mind as a team leader. If you haven’t “walked a mile in those shoes”, it’s hard to lead by example. Do not fall into the “do as I say, not as I do” mentality. Trust your medics to do the job, unless proven otherwise. It is how you expect to be treated and they deserve nothing less.

Training

TrainingTraining for remote medics is critical for success. Not so much in medical skills but in company SOP’s and procedures. You have already vetted them medically as a part of the hiring process. Sending them to remote locations to fulfill their duties, however, requires attention to detail in company training and in preparing them for success particularly the medics with limited or no experience in working in the remote arena. Set them up for success, not failure!

Initial training should always be conducted face to face, and whenever possible, should include currently working remote medics. They will be able to provide insights to the job that may “slip your mind”.

Regular training meetings should also be scheduled. This also provides time for “team building”, disseminating company information, and getting feedback from field medics outside the normal day to day communications.

Conflicts

Conflicts are inevitable in all aspects of life. On the remote job site, theses can become even more of a problem. Resolving these issues also becomes more time consuming and difficult due to remoteness. But it is important to try to resolve these issues as soon as possible instead of waiting for a more convenient time to avoid the problem escalating on the job site and causing harm to the business relationship with the client as well as detriment to the remote medic’s wellbeing in the job.

Again, building relationships among the team outside of work and regular communication efforts help to resolve these issues before they arise.

Burnout

burnoutBurnout is a common problem in EMS as a general rule, but can most assuredly be worse in the remote setting. Long periods away from family and friends will take a toll on the remote medic.

While it is always important to keep open the lines of communication, and to be cognizant of employees’ mood and demeanor, it becomes even more important in the remote setting. Be acutely aware of signs of burnout and be prepared to do a crew change out if need be and offer any support you can to avoid burnout. Happy medics make for a happy and successful company for all!

Thanks for reading the thoughts (ravings) of an old medic. Be safe out there.

 

By Sean Brooks, MICP, NRP

Natural Born Leaders?

Natural Born Leaders or are they Built?
Leadership

This statement holds so true in the world of Remote Medicine. In times of chaos our staff must be a leader to accomplish the common goal of keeping people safe and obtaining a positive outcome for everyone. No one person can do everything, therefore, we cannot demand, we must conduct and lead people to a successful operation.

So the Question becomes are there Natural Born Leaders?

Are people natural born leaders, or is this something that can be taught over time through instruction, coursework, or emulating others? According to James G. Clawson in his 2013 article “Is Leadership Born or Built?” he states, “Leadership is about managing energy, first in yourself and then in those around you. What this definition implies is that unless you are deeply committed to an outcome that others can engage in and understand, no amount of teaching will make you a leader.”

On the other hand, Nigel Nicholson of the London Business School suggests in his book “Executive Instinct” that there may be a leadership gene-that some people are just driven to be in charge.

I guess there is no scientific answer to this question, but I can look back on my life and think of people who were wonderful leaders and others that could have taken some advise. In the end, I want people to look back and think that guy was a true leader and that I was able to help people conduct the operation.

By Jason McLaughlin, B.S., NRP, MICP

Living in the Present

Life is moving too fast, but if you were living in the present you might just be inspired

Here-and-Now
Its time to live during the now

It seems like life is moving too fast lately. With the increase in technology, everyone is on their phones, tablets, computers, and any other personal device which has made us lose site of the important things in life.  Social media has forced people to stop being social in my mind. Sure we write something down on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and all 1,300 of our followers instantly know that we just took a selfie at a rock concert. But is that actually being social, or is that just putting our every move out there for the world to see. It appears that people have forgotten to just stop and live in the present and enjoy the people around them.

Except for Tyson Pitts

Tyson Pitts on his bicycle living in the present
Tyson as he sets out on a 2 year adventure.

Recently while out on a project, Tyson Pitts came strolling into our camp looking to rest his legs and catch a meal. I happen to be looking out the window of my trailer when I see this gentleman ride in on a bicycle. Now, for most people they are thinking…So what, he was riding his bike. Well let me explain, our camp is set in one of the most remote locations about 40 miles South of Deadhorse, Alaska. If you happened to watch Ice Road Truckers on the History Channel then you have a good idea where we are situated and how extreme and desolate of a location it actually is. So yeah, a guy riding his bicycle is slightly out of the norm.

Anyways, as a paramedic I decided that I should walk over there to talk with him and make sure that he was doing okay and not in need of medical attention.  He says he is doing wonderful and was just hoping to get a meal as one of his packs off his bike had fallen off and he was out of food until he could get to the next town. So we sat down in the diner trailer and had a great conversation.

It turns out that Tyson is taking the next two years of his life to ride his bicycle from the tip of Alaska down to the tip of South America with the motto that he was born with a compass in his hand and a restless soul. He told me that he is in no hurry and that he plans to take his time and enjoy what is in front of him each day. He said he will camp, stay in hostels, work odd and end jobs to make a little money for food, and live in the present moment.  Talking to Tyson, he had so much charisma, he’s humble, and was so inspirational. There have been numerous times in my life where I wanted to just do something crazy, but I always found a reason why it would not work. Yet, here is a guy that set out on an idea and is just doing it. He doesn’t know where he will end up each day, what life will throw at him, and who he will meet along the way, but that is all a part of the journey and he is taking it by the handlebars!

SALA Remote Medics and That Salty Nomad Living in the present
Jason McLaughlin and Tyson Pitts South of Deadhorse, Alaska

I can only imagine the satisfaction that Tyson will have all along the way, and especially when he gets to his final destination. With that being said, not everyone can take off two years to ride a bicycle, however, we can take the time to sit back and just look around and observe the beauty around us. We don’t need to have constant stimulation from social media and checking the latest status of Kim Kardashian on TMZ. It is time for us to live in the present and follow Tyson’s lead. To learn more and follow Tyson Pitts along his journey check out his blog at www.thatsaltynomad.com.

Tyson, from everyone here at SALA Remote Medics we wish you the best of luck on your journey and be safe along the way.

 

By Jason McLaughlin, B.S., NRP, MICP

No Place is Safer than Us