Tips for the New Safety Officer

Here’s a summary our discussion presented on the Clinical Pinnacle, EMS Roundtable Blogtalk radio on March 11, 2013.  If you missed the live show, catch it in the archives here.

If you have recently been appointed into a position where you are responsible for the safety programs in your agency, perhaps these tips and links will help you on your way.

Become informed;

  • Research and read any regulations that pertain to safety in EMS.  Generally, you’ll find a wealth of information at OSHA, NISOSH (research agency for CDC), the  CDC, and your state Department of Labor and Industries websites.  Make sure to check with your local governmental agencies as well, they may have additional regulations for topics such as bio-hazard waste disposal.
  • Look for free resources on the Internet.  There is a great deal of information available on the web in the realm of safety.  Because of this, it can be a daunting task and research can become overwhelming so stay focused and take your time.  If needed, converse with others and look for interpretive statements for confusing information.
  • Drink coffee during this process because you will develop narcolepsy during this process.

Educate yourself in regards to your role and responsibilities.

  • One of the most important roles in an EMS agency is the role of the Infection Control Officer.  Kathy West, RN gives an excellent series of classes designed to prepare you for this responsibility.
  • It is likely your state Department of EMS offers free education for various subject matters regarding safety in your agency.  Attend at least annually, this will validate your knowledge and lend credibility to you during times of inspection and accreditation.

Collect templates of safety programs.  Don’t reproduce work that has already been done somewhere else.  A simple Internet search will turn up a significant number of resources for;

  • Accident Prevention Program
  • Exposure Control Plan
  • Respiratory Protection Plan
  • Various other procedures and policies that you’ll need to implement for a complete comprehensive program.  (Control of Hazardous Energy, Hazardous Communication Program, Workplace Violence, Fitness and Nutrition for EMS providers, Ergonomics)

Create and establish initial and on-going education programs to meet the regulations and target your agency.

  • Include information related to trends in the agency
  • Include national and local epidemiology

After you establish your programs acquire data.

  • Using your employee on duty illness / injury forms, collect and evaluate the data.  Target education to your trends, give rewards and praise for areas that employees are performing well.

Market and communicate to your team.

  • If employees don’t know about the programs, they’ll assume nothing is in place or being done about things.  Consider regularly scheduled safety emails highlighting some important points in your program.
  • Communicate safety information from the industry.  Brian Fass is one excellent resource for this.
  • Develop incentive programs to target both extrinsic and intrinsic audiences.
  • Consider establishing contests for weight loss or fitness milestones.

Collect feedback from your team.

  • Use an audience response system in the classroom to engage the audience while giving you information.
  • Occasionally use Internet survey’s to evaluate your teams understanding of your programs and perhaps gain insight into their expectations as well.
  • Add a questionnaire in regards to the safety programs to your on duty illness and injury program.  This is a great way to gain feedback from your crews about the Safety programs and gauge their effectiveness and influence on your team.

Be prepared for challenges in managing and establishing safety programs.

  • Communication can be a challenge.  Be brief, provide useful information and be consistent and provide convenient means for crews to communicate to you.
  • Use a root cause analysis process for evaluating incidents.  An excellent model is the Just Culture Causal Analysis

Consider big issues facing the industry and include information in regards to them in your programs and educational content.

  • Fitness and nutrition
  • Patient drops and gurney use
  • Workplace violence (what I specifically mean is combative patients, active shooters, and mass destruction).

Tips to change the culture to promote safety in an organization include;

  • Two way communication
  • Recognition, incentives and rewards
  • Lead by example
  • Stay current

Until next time!

Educating the Experienced Audience

Here’s a summary our discussion presented on the Clinical Pinnacle, EMS Roundtable Blogtalk radio on March 25, 2013. If you missed the live show, catch it in the archives here.

I find one of the biggest challenges is to provide education and training that effectively refreshes required knowledge and skills but also continues to build knowledge and provide new information.  It seems to me that the providers fresh out of medic school and the providers with the longest tenure that are the most challenging to engage.  They have brand new knowledge or years of experience.

As an educator, how do you prepare for a CE session with experienced providers?

Preparation is the key to providing a quality CE session, particularly if you don’t want to deliver content that your audience that will challenge and engage them.  Prepare for some didactic, affective and  skill promoting activities.

When preparing for a CE session I’ll usually start with reviewing the objectives from the curriculum.  Doing this helps me refresh my baseline knowledge and start to brainstorm on potential objectives that I think would be good targets for increasing the depth and breadth of knowledge for my target audience.  See the National Core Content and the National Education Standards for reference.

If the topic is a big one such as airway, I’ll focus on building content around subtopic like CPAP, BIPAP, Tracheotomy care, etc.

Reviewing baseline knowledge such as anatomy, physiology is good practice even for experienced audiences.  I’ll usually prepare an activity that will engage the group and get their gears turning.  I remember once I broke the class up into small groups, gave them each a zip lock bag containing two balloons, a straw, some string, popsicle sticks, toothpicks, gumdrops, glitter, a piece of paper, and some other trinkets and told each group they had 10 minutes to build a model of the respiratory system including the parts I had written on the board.  Then they had to use their model to explain how the respiratory system worked.  It was fun, refreshing and engaging for the group.  As an educator, you’ll learn a lot bout your people by watching the results of these kinds of activities.  They are creative, articulate, and when they have fun, they are usually more open to learning.

Here’s a few other things to consider when building content for CE with experienced providers;

  • Review and sterilize patient care reports for the topic.  Provide a template for a basic CQI evaluation of each chart and have the groups perform their own CQI of the charts and give a report to the class.
  • Try a journal review.  Pass out articles to the groups, have them read and give a group opinion on the article, etc.  Encourage discussion around controversial topics.
  • Consider introducing new equipment related to the topic  for evaluation and discussion in the classroom.
  • Less words, more pictures and videos.  Cite your sources.
  • When using canned classes such as PHTLS, AMLS, EPC, etc.  Ensure you have quality instructors for the content.  More on this in future shows.
  • Consider guest speakers.  Consider a conference call or video conference with a guest speaker that will engage the students with new information or a QA session.
  • Consider doing a podcast and using the classroom as your audience.

As educators we are challenged to provide education and training that effectively refreshes required knowledge and skills but also continues to build knowledge and provide new information. As students in EMS you have some responsibility in participating in your own growth.  Attend with an open mind and be prepared to learn.

There are more discussions on EMS Roundtable that I’m sure you’ll find engaging.  Be sure to check out the site and consider calling into one of the great shows and contributing to the conversation.

Until next time.


Developing your Agency Ongoing Trainig Plan – The First Steps

Here's a summary our discussion presented on the Clinical Pinnacle, EMS Roundtable Blogtalk radio on Monday, February 19, 2013.  If you missed the live show, catch it in the archives here. The first few steps of developing an agency training plan … [Continue reading]

Develop Your Professionality, A Treatment for Boredom and Burnout

Skydiving, Olympia, WA 2011.  Adventure cures most any ailment.

When meeting new people one of the first questions usually asked is "What do you do?"  It's a conversation starter.  It's also a way to classify, characterize, and place our own private judgements on others.  This question can be particularly … [Continue reading]

EMS, The Front Row Seat in the Human Experience

EMS Professionals are odd fellows.  I took this pic at the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival in Mt. Vernon, Washington.  I particularly favored the one yellow tulip among all of the reds.

In humble supplication of the approaching week where we honor all EMS , I can't help but reflect on my own grass roots start in the industry and my motivation to continue my journey as an EMS professional. As a little girl, I didn't dream of being … [Continue reading]

Presenteeism; The Emerging Trend of Pretending to Care

He Laughed with all of his Laughter.  New Orleans, August 2005, EMS Expo.  I met this individual on the bus while visiting the area, two days before Hurricane Katrina.  A stranger who's heart and soul radiated to others through each and every connection.

  Presenteeism is a new and interesting term.  It implies that a person is present, but not engaged in what they are doing, or that a person is present and working when they shouldn't be such as when they are not feeling well or are very … [Continue reading]