Prolific international EMS educator Dan Batsie delivered the closing keynote at the National Association of EMS Educators Symposium on August 12 in Washington, DC, concluding the event with a focus on mentoring EMS educators. The session, “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants,” invited EMS educators to challenge mediocrity and seize the opportunity of new beginnings and lessons learned in and out of class to provide for all of us in EMS.
Batsie used the concept of the epic hero, often found in literature, to lay a foundation for his theory of mentoring and the EMS educator’s role as both the mentor and mentee at various points in their careers. He asserted that we all, providers and educators, have taken a career path similar to that of the traditional epic hero, with challenges, adversity and adversaries, and that someone—a mentor—helped pave the way for us. Anyone who has been successful has had someone in their corner, often many individuals, contributing in their own manner. Unfortunately many in EMS subscribe to the notion that we must knock each other down to move up the ladder. The truth is, none of us can do this alone.
He referenced a 1999 study of first-year teachers that identified psychological milestones that started with anticipation and progressed to disillusionment, survival and then loss.1 With the introduction of a mentor, the teachers in the study experienced a psychological turnaround that took them from loss to rejuvenation and back to anticipation. This psychological arc speaks to EMS educators as well. Batsie also highlighted the loss of 160 paramedic program directors in 2016; that’s approximately a quarter of accredited paramedic programs in the United States.2 There are no statistics, but he questioned how many new EMS educators are lost as well.
Batsie charged EMS educators to work together and begin a cultural revolution of mentoring new EMS educators both within the structure of our institutions and on an organic interpersonal level. He suggested implementing an institutional mentoring structure to take place during initial licensure of EMS educators and new-instructor orientation programs. He encouraged seasoned educators to shift their views from individualism to collectivism—to think about the influence improved educators would have on EMS instruction and the field of EMS as a whole. Batsie challenged educators to integrate mentoring into their classrooms, primarily by modeling it and its associated behaviors to students and examining the importance of the mentoring relationship.
There are limited mentoring opportunities for women and minorities due to their limited numbers in leadership. Men will have to battle the “reluctant man syndrome” and mentor all who have leadership potential, including women, to fill our agencies with those who are qualified. He cautioned against confusing the intimacy of a mentoring relationship with an opportunity for sexual intimacy, citing perception, personal and professional difficulties caused by this as a barrier to mentoring relationships.
He offered some advice to potential mentors and mentees to implement this cultural revolution at home. Batsie likened choosing an individual to mentor to investing in the stock market—with a limited amount of time and energy, you want a powerful return on your investment. Mentors should be selective in choosing mentees, but beware of creating your own image; diversity in mentoring is necessary for energy and information transfer within the mentoring relationship. He also cautioned that mentees will have their own dreams, goals and ideas, and a mentor’s task is to guide, but allow space for them to gain their own experience and grow. There are five key attributes vital for mentors: altruism, trustworthiness, being a good role model, being an active listener and being consistent.
Batsie challenged mentees to be active participants in the mentoring process by finding their mentors, then approaching them and building a mentoring relationship. Batsie suggested finding the five smartest people a mentee knows and building a brain trust or personal “board of directors.” He encouraged potential mentees to identify the best parts of those they admire and build a model for personal development. Mentees should demonstrate key attributes: that they are open to feedback, actively listen and are respectful of input and time from a mentor.
In closing, Batsie considered those who had helped him throughout his EMS career. He invited the audience to consider the legacy they would leave behind and proposed for each seasoned educator to mentor one new educator this year. He acknowledged everyone would not be reached but wondered just how many more new educators could be.
Athena Rising: How and Why Men Should Mentor Women by David Smith and W. Brad Johnson;
Elements of Mentoring by Charles R. Ridley and W. Brad Johnson.
Moir E. “The Stages of a Teacher’s First Year.” In Villani S (ed.), Mentoring Programs for New Teachers: Models of Induction and Support, Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, 2002.
Amy Eisenhauer is a dynamic presenter at EMS conferences nationwide. As a certified emergency medical technician, she has served the New Jersey emergency medical services community as a volunteer and career provider since 1995. She also hosts an interactive blog at TheEMSsiren.com, committed to improving the EMS community as a whole.