Matt Zavadsky is a featured speaker at EMS World Expo scheduled for October 29–November 2 in New Orleans, LA. For more information, visit EMSWorldExpo.com.
In our last installment we discussed the new roles EMS—or more appropriately “UMS” (unscheduled medical services—more on that later)—agencies need to undertake with healthcare stakeholders in today’s environment.
While healthcare partners are crucial, successful EMS agencies need to cultivate excellent relationships with several other significant stakeholder groups. In this second part of our three part series, we will look at ways to develop relationships with employees and government leaders. These stakeholders need to be fully engaged in order to have any hope of future success for our industry and your agency.
Our employees are much more than our most valuable asset on the income statement—they are the ambassadors upon which we stake our reputation and foundation for success. Every interaction they have with fellow employees, patients, hospital staff members, co-responders or the public is a “moment of truth.” How they interact and represent your agency can make or break you. If one employee is rude, or even less than enthusiastic with one member of a co-response agency, word sparks like wildfire that your entire agency is a bunch of prima-donnas who belittle other agencies. The same is true of hospital staff. Conversely, if our staff is kind, compassionate and empathetic, the interaction with these groups will convey the message that “we care about you.”
Creating a culture of caring starts at the top, and it needs to inhabit every aspect of your agency. It can’t be just lip service either; you need to walk the walk. If employees are shown empathy, they’re more able and better prepared to show empathy to others. In practical terms, this means doing the right thing for employees, which occasionally may go against doing things right.
For example, suppose you have a tenured employee who develops cancer and gets very weak the day after chemotherapy treatment. Human resources rules may state that an employee who is too weak to work due to a non-work related illness cannot be placed on “light duty.” But you know the employee’s life revolves around his work—and without work, he’s subject to depression and perhaps a worsening medical condition.
So, you do “the right thing” and allow the employee to work in a light-duty capacity for a few shifts every month to keep him connected and positive. Even though it’s not 100% compliant with your policy, it’s the right thing to do for the employee. That employee, and everyone who knows and cares about him, sees what you’re doing and it makes them feel better about you and the agency. All the employees learn from that demonstration of caring, and in return are better equipped to show that same compassion for others.
At MedStar, we call this Job No. 1—taking care of our internal and external stakeholders. It’s something everyone puts into practice as a guiding principle every day.
Another important aspect of employee relations is engaging your employees and sharing your vision with them about the future of our industry. Having a clear vision for where your agency is headed, especially in light of the numerous changes in the healthcare system, will help them understand how our profession’s role needs to change. Things like the importance of customer service to new payers, such as hospitals and ACOs, because it may have an impact on their reimbursement rate from Medicare, or the reasons behind working on innovative programs to reduce readmissions and navigate patients to alternate destinations for minor medical or trauma issues, can help ensure employees understand the need for changes in delivery models.
Once employees understand the reasons we cannot do business as usual and survive, they will be better engaged and equipped to be the ambassadors we need in order to be successful with our other stakeholders.