A Lesson Learned – Getting Butts out of Seats

Leading by Example

I learned a valuable lesson about the providers in my organization this week, and until that moment I firmly believed inherent laziness was a cornerstone of most EMS provider’s value system.

Once a month, our teams come into the classroom for a long day of training, education, safety review and crew meetings.  We call this day Base Station or OTEP (On Going Training and Education Day).

Usually, crews adorn me with complaints, groans, moans, concerns and general touchiness, reminding me that the days of intrinsic motivation are generally over, even for those of us who are intrinsically motivated.  This is also a great way for me to gauge the morale compass of the workforce.

The topic for the month of March included;  Trauma and Kinematics, EMS Systems and Management of the Critical Care Trauma Patient.  With the new EMS education standards, our lessons have increased in content and time to cover the new depth and breadth of information.  Before our education topic starts, we give the safety or OSHA lesson of the month.  This month is EMS Provider Fitness and Nutrition.

I am passionate about this topic because it is a core belief of mine that EMS Provider Fitness and Nutrition is the number one (1) factor in the injury rates within our organization.  I have an insider’s view of the injury trends because that’s part of my job responsibilities.  After 10 years in this position, I have concluded that inherent laziness and lack of fitness and nutrition are the greatest contributors to our injury rates.

But I was wrong.  Providers may have varying degrees of physical fitness and nutritional habits and it is my belief that this factor is still a major factor, but laziness is not.  Laziness is just a symptom.  A symptom of a growing epidemic amongst EMS providers.  I heard the term used by Brian Fass in a conference recently;  “Presenteeism”.  It’s the idea that the employee is present,  but not engaged.  I think factors to this new conundrum include fatigue, deployment, shift work, external stresses (economy, fear of job loss, family stresses), and a wide variety of other things that I plan to blog about later.  But laziness?  Just a symptom.

Adults like choices.  I asked the group, would you rather do a series of exercises with me or would you rather watch the articulated power point on provider nutrition and fitness?  I was incredibly surprised when the providers unanimously decided to perform the exercises.  Shocked actually.  So, we did a series of exercises and I walked out of that classroom with a smile and few things on my mind;

1.  Providers are not inherently lazy.  They are lacking in proper motivation.

2.  I need to re-think my strategy in managing the physical fitness and nutrition crisis that I’m seeing in our organization.  Brian Fass, here I come.

3.  Perhaps I should have my articulated OSHA modules peer-reviewed.  I want to eliminate the fact that they suck so horribly that even the least motivated person would rather run 1/4 mile and do some stretches than to have to sit through my content.

There you have it.  I was wrong.  EMS providers may want their butts out of the seats more than we educators and managers think.  I’m entertaining comments and ideas.