Management Sucks

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Yes, that’s right. Management sucks. For those of you fearing this is a hit piece about my bosses, feel relief. This is a candid post of my journey through EMS management.

In 2014 I began my first full time EMS job, fresh out of Paramedic school. I was working for a municipal fire department in the rapidly growing and changing Bakken oilfields.

In 2017 I left the department. We had a 70% turnover rate within 2 years. There was no leadership, and those chosen to be officers made how you felt about your job even worse.

I came away from that job with a lot of experience. Not just clinical, either. I had made notes of how my co-workers and I felt when we didn’t feel supported, and witnessed first hand how when your employees don’t care, you will not succeed.

Fast forward to October of 2018. In May of 2018 my hometown ambulance service (where I live and work per diem) had not renewed their contract with the company that had provided everything but equipment – management services, billing, logistics, and employees. So, the county level ambulance service hired a Manager, and employees, and started anew. But that Manager didn’t work out, and I was asked to fill the interim Operations Manager position as of October 10th, 2018.

I had no real managerial experience, nor any qualifications for it. Everything on my resume was clinical or operational related, with the exception of a Field Training Officer certificate from Texas A&M.

So I began. I identified my priorities: handling the out of control budget, ensuring we have good employees, and fostering a close relationship with our local hospital, which had been damaged previously.

And people were happy with my work. When the Board of Directors began searching for a new permanent Operations Manager, I hesitated to apply. I love my full time job as a Flight Paramedic. I get to see very sick patients in resource limited environments. I love it so much I’m learning to fly!

I also love aspects of my ground job. As the head of the ambulance service, I am responsible for where it goes as an organization. I’m lucky to be supported by an Education Coordinator, our Medical Director, and our community.

Then the Board of Directors asked me to be the permanent Manager. But, do I really enjoy being a Manager? Not really. I don’t enjoy accounting or human resources. I want to still take care of patients. At my request, the Board of Directors gave me until June to decide.

In January I attended the Wisconsin EMS Association’s conference in Milwaukee. While on my way back. I stopped and my an old co-worker from Sanford, Randy. Randy is THE guy you need to talk to when it comes to disaster and mass casualty EMS, which is a passion we both share (I love operational medicine). Over beers, I was telling him about my management position and how I’ve tried to run the service. He chuckled and said “I’ve never known you to want to be an administrator. You love patient care.”

And he’s right. Not only do I love patient care, but I’m not qualified to be an administrator. My degree is in Paramedic Technology and I’ve never been so much as a supervisor. The most experience I have is precepting new Paramedic and EMT students.

But despite that, I’ll continue to manage the ambulance service on 3 core principles:

  1. Employees are your best resource – take care of them and they will take care of the organization.
  2. Paramedicine is in its infancy – there is no ceiling for knowledge or scope of practice.
  3. Patients come before profit.

And who knows, maybe Ill decide later down the road I want to take the position. No matter what, my experiences have been extremely educational, humbling, and eye opening.

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