For the last five years of my EMS career, I’ve been studying best practices for EMS Field Training and Evaluation Programs (FTEP) from a management perspective. I’ve looked at everything I could find about hiring and training EMS providers… from the interview to the FTO teaching in the field up to the manager organizing schedules and budgets. I had studied it from every perspective.
At least I believed I had.
This month I’m seeing EMS FTEP from a perspective that I thought I understood; the new hire. My family has relocated and I’m starting all over as a new hire in a new system. A lot of the “truths” I believed are being challenged. The changes I’m having to make now, both personally and professionally, are huge.
My fellow new hires have taught me most of what I’ve learned over the last two weeks about the new hire’s perspective. Over lunch breaks and side conversations they have shared with me the spectrum of emotions a new hire may have during an EMS FTEP. I’d like to share some of the most interesting ones.
“The ink is still wet on my state license.” I’m not talking about someone who is simply new to your service. This is someone who is completely new to EMS. FTO’s and managers with any more than a year on the job have a few newbie horror stories. There is always a learning curve for the newbie, some curves are steeper than others. Often, these horror stories come from new employees who had character flaws on top of inexperience. To be clear, I don’t believe any of my current peers are unmotivated or immoral. There are just a few who (despite their EMT-B training) have never touched a cot, a monitor, or the steering wheel of an ambulance. As an instructor or manager, are you ready and willing to spend the extra time that they will require in the skills stations or in post-run debriefs? Does your FTEP have structured, non-punitive remediation plans built in?
“This is my dream job.” Someone, somewhere has looked at your agency and thought it was the best thing since bacon. If you’re in the position to be instructing or managing within your EMS agency, then you’ve probably been there a while. The “new” has worn off many moons ago, and there are some things you’ve started taking for granted. You also know all about your agency’s ugly side, so the thought of it being someone’s utopia is beyond bizarre. But for someone coming from a much worse previous situation (and there is always at least one that is worse), your agency is the bomb. Do you and your FTO’s promote the positive aspects that first attracted this new hire, or will they see more of the negative?
“Been there, done that.” Occasionally a new hire will come into your service ready to go to the streets with little training or supervision needed. There are still certain activities they’ll need to complete for the sake of organizational compliance, but for the most part they are ready to rock. How does your FTEP engage and challenge the veteran adult learner? Are your newer FTO’s prepared to work with a new hire who is more experienced than they are?
“There is no Plan B.” This is the situation that always stops me in my tracks. Either by poor choices or simple bad luck, the job you’ve given them is their only lifeline. As weird as this may sound, entry-level EMT pay may make this person “rich” in the eyes of their family and peers. Most of these people aren’t going to advertise their financial hardship, either. They may share their concerns with you if you’re able to create an emotionally safe environment for them, but then again they may not. Does your orientation sufficiently explain pay and benefits to new hires? Do you have an employee assistance program with resources for those who would rather disclose problems to a third party professional? Would you be willing to help someone find other employment if you had to terminate them from your FTEP?
There are endless variations and additions to the list above. These are just a few that I’ve recently observed. I’d love to read your thoughts, as well.