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From the Officer's Desk: Five Business Priorities

After the swearing in, badge pinning, and pictures with family and friends, the newly promoted EMS officer must begin fulfilling their role. Having a clear plan will help them stay on track and not lose sight of essential activities critical to success. 

The following five business priorities are designed to assist in deciding what to do next. They are the foundation to key organizational activities for growing the division and/or organization. It is critical to remain engaged with them, build upon them, and evaluate them on a regular basis. The five business priorities are:     

  • People (internal and external stakeholders);  
  • Strategic objectives;    
  • Financial management objectives;    
  • Learning objectives;  
  • A culture of quality.

These are not onetime initiatives but should be used as a foundational framework to keep the EMS officer on track. They can serve as platforms for transitioning into other important activities—for example, the priority of people can promote a focus on new-hire onboarding, personnel training, physicals, injury reduction, customer surveys, and so on. The same can be done with the other priorities.


If an EMS officer wants to be successful, supporting their employees must be a top priority. Employees who are not appreciated may experience underperformance, which leads to poor outcomes, increased turnover, injuries, and ultimately a reduced ability to deliver quality service. 

Recognize, embrace, and celebrate the value employees bring. Demonstrate that as the leader, you stand with them. They are the driving force in promoting and sustaining the organization’s culture—keep them happy. And don’t neglect external stakeholders—for example, equipment vendors, hospital personnel, and other stakeholders can have a direct impact on an organization. 

Strategic Objectives     

Having a plan that clearly articulates the division’s or organization’s strategic goals is essential. If the new officer has no clear plan or direction, stakeholders may become frustrated. All personnel should know what’s expected from them.

Use the acronym SMART (for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound) to help set strategic objectives and develop clear, articulated strategies and tactics for accomplishing them. Communicating these goals is as important as defining them; ensure both internal and external stakeholders understand their roles and how each plan aligns with the organization’s purpose, mission, and vision. 

Financial Management Objectives     

At some point EMS officers have to work with budgets. Keeping the books in balance entails not only spending control but also planning, forecasting, directing, and coordinating purchases. Strategic objectives often come with costs: implementing new processes or tools; purchasing and replacing equipment; investment in capital improvement projects and personnel, etc. Defined financial management objectives ensure the utilization of funds supports key strategic objectives. 

Financial management objectives must encompass the following:    

  • Planning, organizing, directing, controlling, coordinating, and monitoring financial resources;
  • Safely maximizing funds to achieve strategic objectives;  
  • Minimizing financial risk;    
  • Ensuring continued viability for service delivery;    
  • Ensuring alignment between financial resources and strategic objectives.

The EMS officer may be familiar with common terms and even have a basic understanding of finance. Nevertheless, working with the organization’s budget professionals must be a first step in overseeing a divisional or organizational budget. Become versed in how funds are obtained and allocated.

Learning Objectives     

When used as part of a formal course or training curriculum, learning objectives specify what the learner is expected to know or master upon completion. Organizational learning objectives define its collective learning goals.

Learning goals support the creation of learning opportunities for employees, which in turn helps the organization deliver quality service. These goals should also reflect SMART values. Examples might be:

  • The organization will hold three leadership training seminars throughout the year;
  • The department will collaborate with the local university to offer graduate business and public administration degree programs each year;
  • The department will conduct four quarterly EMS training in-services throughout the year and include patient simulation to evaluate employee skills.

These objectives are more specific than strategic objectives in articulating what formal or technical training is required for specific roles, promotional opportunities, and as part of continuing education. Learning objectives must also ensure internal stakeholders stay informed of changes impacting the EMS industry. Technology, medicine, education, and other industries all keep evolving, and so must those responsible for maximizing such opportunities.

Culture of Quality

Quality service delivery must be at the core of every patient encounter, but it doesn’t end there. Make it a priority to deliver quality-driven activities when working with processes, systems, patient care, medical interventions, and customers. Quality service rests on a framework found within the organization’s DNA and deeply rooted in its culture. The EMS officer must demonstrate a relentless passion for achieving quality outcomes by routinely evaluating organizational activities, measuring for improvement, adjusting if necessary, and continually reevaluating.


These five business priorities are essential for the success of any organization but are by no means the only concerns EMS officers will regularly face. Use them as a leadoff and reference to ensure key activities are addressed and not overlooked. In addition, each priority can drive attention to other organizational activities that also require attention and add value. 

Orlando J. Dominguez, Jr., MBA, RPM, is assistant chief of EMS for Brevard County Fire Rescue in Rockledge, Fla. He has more than 30 years of EMS experience and has served as a firefighter-paramedic, flight paramedic, field training officer, EMS educator, and division chief. He has authored two books, including EMS Supervisor: Principles and Practice, and is a certified Lean Six Sigma Green Belt. Follow him at @ems_officer. 

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