Preparing for Deployment

Over the last decade, it’s an issue that’s confronted EMS providers and organizations like so many others in America: A military member is off to serve and won’t be at work for a while. How can such service members and their agencies minimize the disruption and best manage everyone’s interests?

The National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians (NAEMT) has produced a pair of resources to help. Last year, the NAEMT established a Military Relations Committee, consisting entirely of members currently serving in the U.S. armed forces, to identify ways to support military medics and EMS providers who are active duty, reservists or veterans. Now the group has issued documents for those serving and their employers outlining steps to take before, during and after the soldier’s deployment. Tips for EMS Practitioners Deploying for Combat also includes a certification checklist for those shipping out.

For EMS providers, work-related things to do beforehand include boning up on reemployment rights (the pertinent legislation is the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994, or USERRA) and understanding your department’s policies and coming changes in benefits/compensation. Discuss your anticipated deployment timeline with your employer and contact relevant licensing/registration agencies about remaining eligible to work when you get back. The document also includes suggestions for outside of work, including establishing family/pet support and arranging for payment of bills. Help with leases, rent and credit card issues is available at

During deployment, the NAEMT advises keeping in touch with your employer to stay current on SOPs/SOGs and policy changes, and seeking out CME opportunities as possible. Afterward, it suggests meeting with your boss to discuss your current status and any new skills you’ve brought back, but not before taking sufficient time to rest and heal from any physical or emotional injuries.

The second publication, Employers Guide: Support Your EMS Practitioner Deploying for Combat, sets out steps for system leaders. Before deployment, they should also review USERRA and go over policies, timelines, etc. with the employee. They should have a point of contact for the family and promise to assist them while the employee is gone.

Organizations should strive to keep in touch with employees during deployment, not only communicating news, but also sending letters, cards, photos and other support. They should help coordinate licensing/certification matters and, as promised, look after the family, especially with things like child care breaks and home repairs.

When an employee returns, organizations should give them time and work to facilitate an easy reintegration. A welcome-home celebration is appropriate. Returnees will have to be brought up to speed on new policies and changes. Leaders should solicit feedback from support-system personnel to recognize and intervene if any problems occur.

The time and course of reintegration, the document notes, depend on factors like the length of deployment, duties and any injuries sustained. “Remember that each veteran is an individual,” it notes, “and different timelines may be needed for successful reintegration.”

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