A new EMS mentoring program must be coupled with the proper selection of employees who share the attributes you want to impart to newcomers. One of the most successful elements of the Memphis program has been the affective domain matching of new employees with compatible mentors to accentuate both paramedics' attributes. After their classroom experience, new medics are paired with mentors who have been carefully selected through an interview and education process. New employees are paired with their mentors for 30 shift days (24-hour shifts) to complete the EMS component of their training.
Under the Memphis model, paramedic recruits mirror their mentors--i.e., if the mentor is on the ambulance, the recruit rides as a third on the ambulance. If the mentor is on the ALS fire company, the recruit rides as a fifth. If staffing requires the mentor to be detailed to another ALS resource, the recruit goes with them. If a mentor is off sick or not at work, their recruit is detailed to an alternate who's also been vetted through the mentoring selection process. This ensures the one-on-one aspect--a major missing link before.
The purpose of this program is to teach new employees how to operate independently within our system. A minimum of three hours of active instruction takes place between mentors and employees each day during the process. Recruits and their mentors must complete daily tasks outlined in a manual created to reflect important daily EMS functions.
Another successful tool has been using a behaviorally anchored rating scale (BARS) system. BARS is a performance appraisal method that blends aspects of the traditional rating scale and critical incident methods (see sidebar). Mentors distill their proteges' job behaviors, effective and ineffective, from critical incidents and describe them objectively in writing. A scale depicts various performance levels that are described in terms of an employee's job behaviors.
At or near the completion of the 30-day evaluation, new employees are scheduled to report to the training academy for oral examinations to test their comprehension of the recruit training manual, SOPs and other materials. They are evaluated by EMS chiefs and our medical director. If a recruit's performance is judged good enough to advance, they are assigned to an ALS fire company and can begin training on that equipment.
Good Things Found in BARS
Behaviorally anchored rating scales (BARS) combine critical incident and rating scale methods to judge employee performance. Employees are evaluated on a scale with points anchored to critical incidents. This lets their performance be assessed in terms of specific behaviors essential to their position, rather than on general traits or concepts. As well, it reduces subjectivity and potential bias.
Developing a BARS for any position may take 2-3 months and involve mutiple subject matter experts in defining critical incidents. Critical incidents represent extreme behavior, good or bad. The experts rate identified incidents on a numerical scale, generally from 4-9 points.
For more on BARS, see: How to construct behaviorally anchored rating scales for employee evaluations--www.allbusiness.com/human-resources/employee-development/631161-1.html.
Things My Mentors Taught Me
I've been fortunate to have had great mentors in my EMS journey. I cherish their leadership as well as their friendship, and still call on them today for advice and guidance. Here are some tips they've imparted along the way.
- Take the good and bad from every leader you've had--learn from their mistakes and successes.
- Watch your actions and what you say. It's what you say and how you say it--everyone is watching you.
- Remember, there is no such thing as a private conversation.
- Never write a nasty memo or letter--it's forever.
- Tell the truth. Falsehoods last longer than the truth.
- Nobody ever learned anything by talking. Be an active listener and keep an open mind.
- Let your people know every day what they did well.
- Compromise. Know the definition, and use it.
- Don't be afraid to ask someone you respect for advice.
- No good deed goes unpunished. Someone will always object--get over it!
- The word can't should not be in your vocabulary--find a way you can.
- Try very hard not to take things personally.
- Don't rush to judgment--have all the facts before you act.
- If it doesn't feel right, don't do it.
- Learn the differences between decision-making time, critical time, sensitive time and discretionary time.
- Everyone makes mistakes--learn from them.
- Take 100% responsibility for your actions.
- Praise in public, discipline in private.
- Shoot from the heart, not the hip.
- Be yourself--no puff.