The current economic downturn is bringing new meaning to the word leadership in EMS agencies across America. As administrators, managers and chiefs work to find new ways to stretch dollars, meet increasing demand and tell their stories to citizens and government, the need to share ideas, failures and best practices becomes stronger than ever. The number of people joining the National EMS Management Association informational e-mail list continues to grow, and we're seeing an important and refreshing cross-pollination of ideas between people from all types of agencies.
Promoting a Leadership Agenda
Our largest project is advancing the EMS leadership agenda document (Emergency Medical Services Management and Leadership Development in America: An Agenda for the Future) released last October at EMS EXPO. The vision of that document is a future in which the roles of EMS managers and leaders are recognized as fundamental to the delivery of quality patient care, are clearly defined, and are supported with appropriate experience, training, education and credentialing. Earlier this year, we presented this vision to the National EMS Advisory Council (NEMSAC). We are pleased that the document and vision are now being talked about at a number of different levels.
The agenda proposes a three-phase approach to fulfilling its vision. The first phase will use a national consensus process to define the various levels of EMS officers (such as supervisor, administrator and executive), the competencies required at each level and the skills, experience, training and education needed to develop those competencies. We are currently seeking funding and a venue to host a consensus-gathering meeting to complete this phase.
The second phase calls for developing model EMS management curricula and courses that educational institutions can use as a foundation for baccalaureate, master's and doctoral programs in EMS management, as well as for the development of position-specific programs for individuals who occupy EMS leadership positions but have academic degrees in disciplines other than EMS. A national EMS officer development and resource center will serve as a focal point for this activity.
The third phase is the establishment of a national EMS officer credentialing body. The full document explains each of these phases; find it at www.nemsma.org.
Educational Opportunities at EMS EXPO
In October, NEMSMA will again hold its annual meeting and networking reception at EMS EXPO (October 26–30 in Atlanta). During the regular conference session, we will host a three-hour forum for EMS administrators, managers and chief officers. We will use a facilitated "open space" format in which registrants will select the topics, which will be introduced by a national leader in a 10-minute "lightning round" presentation, then turned over to participants for discussion. As part of the regular conference package, this session will be open without charge to the first 75 people who sign up when registering for EXPO. For more information, visit www.emsexpoevents.com.
Safety continues to be an important issue in EMS. NEMSMA has watched the helicopter EMS issue closely and has actively carried the message to Congressional leaders about the importance of enhanced HEMS safety and appropriate regulation of the medical and EMS system aspects of HEMS operations. NEMSMA President Gary Wingrove monitored the testimony provided to the National Transportation Safety Board earlier this year and continues to stay abreast of the federal government's role in the EMS aviation industry.
NEMSMA is also working on several projects that will promote the image and visibility of EMS by encouraging pride and esprit de corps among the EMS community. We have entered into a partnership with the Lighthouse Uniform Co. of Seattle, which created the fallen EMT/paramedic dress uniform program, to offer two member benefits that promote the wearing of dress uniforms for public and ceremonial occasions. In addition, we are planning three national competitions. The first, seeking the nation's best-dressed EMS agency, will allow agencies to showcase functional and attractive work and specialty uniforms. The second is a national EMS honor guard competition to showcase the efforts of agencies that have developed internal ceremonial capabilities to enhance their image in their communities. (We are also exploring the development of a manual for EMS agencies wishing to start honor guard programs.) Third, we are planning a national EMS vehicle graphics competition to encourage agencies to highlight efforts to make their vehicles visible, attractive and safer on the highway. Contact me (e-mail: email@example.com) if you are interested in any of these areas.
Finally, we invite EMS officers—supervisors, managers, executives—to join us in these efforts. In these tough economic times, it's more important than ever that we work together, share our experiences, debate difficult issues and work toward making EMS better for all. We have over 1,500 managers from all kinds of organizations, and while I can assure you we don't always agree, we all recognize there is great value in learning from one another and working together to make EMS more effective, visible and inclusive.
Skip Kirkwood, MS, JD, EMT-P, EFO, CMO, is chief of the Wake County (NC) EMS Division and president-elect of the National EMS Management Association.