New Year Resolutions: Be Safe, Be Professional

Now that the holidays are over, and we’re into the New Year, it’s time to think about some resolutions for your emergency medical service department.

Start with a brand new quality assurance/quality improvement (QI/QA) program.

If you are like most services, your quality management activity is externally driven. Your EMS system establishes the standard of care and they tell you when you are naughty and when you are nice.

You can do better than that. You need to take charge of your practice.

EMS systems will always assign the standards of our practice and while medical directors may give us our protocols, performance is where the rubber meets the road and that is where we have the opportunity to take charge of our own practice.

Any service, large or small, can do their own performance assessment. The standards are set and you can review your documentation to ensure that protocols are followed.

Once that’s done you can identify variances and design your own continuing education to address the variance from protocols.

In a perfect world, you evaluate your own service’s performance, and you craft the continuing education that brings you closer to full compliance. Even more perfect is doing the research to see if protocols affect patient outcome. This enables you to play a role in setting practice parameters to improve patient outcomes.

That’s a gift that keeps on giving – putting your service in a place where you have a direct effect on improving the level of service you provide in a measurable way.

While we’re on the topic of continuing education, let’s make another resolution. Is your service still dependent on outside entities for your continued education? While there is a lot of good continuing education provided by hospitals, schools and private companies, continuing education should be generated by your service’s needs.

Continuing Education

Continuing education should take into account your patient population, the community demographics and whether you have lots of traffic accidents. It should also consider whether you have an active Saturday night knife and gun club.

Continuing education should be built around your practice. This means your service should be involved.

If you cannot conduct your own continuing education, you should do an evaluation of your service’s practice and seek out programs that identify the elements that would help your people do the best they can.

Here are some examples. Think about whether your community has a high concentration of non-English speaking residents. If it does, your continuing education program ought to have some level of assistance in communicating with your patient population.

If your community has a lot of farm equipment injuries or industrial injuries, then your continuing education needs to prepare your people to respond to these types of emergencies.

I’m sure the picture is coming clear. Take charge of your own destiny. You can determine your needs and make sure they are identified and addressed.

Another resolution to consider is to open things up. We can’t grow inside a box. You can open things up for your department by exposing it to the world of emergency medical service.

Encourage your people to join organizations and attend conferences. Meeting with peers, whether they’re across the street or across an ocean, reinforces our beliefs and provides new perspectives that we can use in our daily practice.

If you, or a member goes for training, bring it back for the others. Bring computers into your station and teach your personnel to access emergency medical service and fire-related web sites and continuing education opportunities.

There’s a wealth of information and opportunities available when our fire stations are wired. Using computers to store policies and procedures and communicate with your personnel makes information exchange and learning available around the clock.

It’s also important to let your community in to see where you work and what you do. Let them know you are there and prepared to serve them. Opening up your station can bring community support to help you build your service and build a sense of pride among the EMS providers, allowing them to be proud of the work they do for the community.

Allow Observers

I get e-mails all the time from pre-hospital care personnel and firefighters from all over the world who would like to spend time as observers on U.S. services.

The experience of having personnel from other countries benefits us all. We learn the culture of responders from other places and we benefit from their shared experiences. Consider opening up your service to our brothers and sisters around the world.

Then, there’s the pride of service, which is the intangible that make the difference between a taxi service and the best care that can be provided to your patients.

Make your service one all of your members can be proud of. This is facilitated by the QI/QA and continuing education I have already discussed. It is also influenced by the equipment and people you bring to work every day.

Take a stand for excellence. Work to make your equipment and your people look the part. Clean, well-maintained apparatus and equipment, and presentable, well-mannered personnel send a message that we take our work seriously.

Our people take on the personality of the things we equip them with. If our stations, apparatus and gear are substandard, it’s likely their performance will follow suit. Make your station, your rigs and your equipment symbols of the pride you take in your work.

Lastly, we should all be resolved to go home to our families at the end of our shifts, every day, and after every call.

Make safety the culture of your department. Review your practices, evaluate incidents, educate and plan. The work we do has inherent dangers. We have the tools and the education available to give ourselves the best opportunity to perform our duties safely and come home.

Make that your goal, your department’s culture and the personal conviction of every member.

Make it a resolution to stay safe.

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