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The Managing EMS Officer


This is the second of a three-part series discussing the three prospective levels of EMS officers as defined by the National EMS Management Association's (NEMSMA) EMS Leadership Agenda Core Competencies project. Those levels are supervising, managing and executive EMS officers. For more information, visit

Throughout history, managers have experienced a bad rap. They are often stereotyped as being more concerned about the bottom line, no matter the toll on the people involved. Clever names such as “meanagers,” and others not appropriate for print are common place in all businesses and organizations when it comes to employees describing their managers. The attribution of these names may not be appropriate. Without the manager, where would most organizations be?

NEMSMA's Core Competencies project has adopted the following three levels of EMS officer:

  • Supervising EMS Officer—EMS officer who provides leadership to non-supervisory personnel;
  • Managing EMS Officer—EMS officer who provides leadership to multiple supervising EMS officers or an organizational function;
  • Executive EMS Officer—EMS officer holding a senior staff role and/or executive officer who has accountability for an entire EMS organization.

Executive officers establish the vision, objectives, principles and policies and will discussed next month. The managing officer adds value by offering something completely different to an organization. defines management as “The organization and coordination of the activities of an enterprise in accordance with certain policies and in achievement of defined objectives.”1 He is responsible for carrying out the executive’s goals and is granted the power to make decisions to fulfill this responsibility. This charge is significant. We often discuss and recognize the executive whose vision has transformed an organization; however, it is the manager who typically implements and helps deliver the results.

It is often said that we lead people and manage processes. An effective manager must do both very well. Managing EMS officers must have strong supervisory skills. As we discussed in the Supervising EMS officer article last month, that person must have developed authority or influence to lead his team and have the ability to objectively evaluate performance. The managing EMS officer must have these same skills, but now appropriately apply them to entire functions, processes or systems across the organization. The manager must work objectively across all shifts or work groups, to deliver results department wide. This is a difficult position. The managing EMS officer must both carry out the vision of the executive officer and lead the supervising officers to fulfill their objectives. Tasks can create conflict within the organization. Managers must display real leadership to successfully effect change.

The competencies of the managing officer are often task and process oriented. However, to lump all the manager’s competencies into non-people activities is inappropriate. One resource the NEMSMA leadership competencies project has incorporated is the Organization System’s International Polaris Competency Model Executive Card Set. After discussing EMS leadership competencies for two days with national EMS stakeholders, it was determined that EMS leadership is not necessary unique compared to other fortunate 500 companies. The Polaris® card set identifies 41 different leadership competencies.2 These competencies will be incorporated as one of the resources in the NEMSMA core competency document. The competencies are being evaluated and scored using Bloom’s taxonomy. It was determined that supervising, managing and executive EMS officers must possess all the leadership skill sets, just to varying degrees of proficiency. The broad categories of the Polaris leadership competencies include: communication (verbal and nonverbal), conceptual (creativity and decision making), contextual (industry knowledge and global skills), interpersonal (diplomacy and assertiveness), leadership (influence and strategic thinking), management (delegation and organizing/planning), and personal (drive, integrity, and results orientation).

You would assume that the managing EMS officer will excel in the management section; however, the manager will not be successful without balancing those skills with the competencies in the other six categories. An effective manager will build upon the skills learned as a supervisor. The supervisor skills used most often may differ from the common competencies used by the manager, but the successful manager will use all the supervisor skills to effectively lead both people and processes to get the desired results.

Management competencies are learned, just as clinical and supervisor skills are developed. Education and experience in process improvement, business processes and time management are critical. The manager must also embrace leadership development, change management and strategic thinking into the curriculum to master the role of the EMS managing officer. The managing and the EMS supervising officer competencies work together to better prepare the individual for the Executive EMS officer role, the subject of the next article in this series.

The competent Managing EMS officer should not be perceived as mean or without feeling. He or she must develop all the competencies of both management and leadership to fulfill the goals of the organization. Organizations must strive to develop their manager’s competencies, because without them, an organization cannot survive.

1. WebFinance, Inc.
2. Organization Systems International.

Troy M. Hagen, MBA, EMT-P, is director of Ada County Paramedics in Boise, ID. He is president-elect of the National EMS Management Association.



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