EMS Provider vs. EMS Professional – Which One Are You?

Catie Holstein, Clinical Manager, CCEMTP, SEI

As I sift through the various EMS blogs on the inter webs, I often see EMT’s, paramedics and other certified personnel described as EMS professionals.  This made me think about the terms I use to describe EMS personnel I work with on a daily basis, in my blog or other EMS activities. I refer to employees that work in our organization as EMS providers and not as EMS Professionals.  Why do I do this?

At the EMS Expo in Las Vegas at the end of 2011, I had the pleasure of listening to Michael Touchstone, BS, EMT-P talk about professionalism in EMS.  Michael began with defining professionalism, discussing the skills of the affective domain (where aspects of professionalism would reside), their importance to EMS and the difficulties of teaching and measuring this skill.  After his lecture, I assessed my own behavior and began to make some adjustments to improve myself.  Next, I looked at the group of Field Training Officers that work for my department and began assessing areas of success in professionalism and areas in need of improvement.  Last, I applied the same evaluation to my management team, my peers and the general EMS provider employee base.  There was such a disparity in the difference in behavior that I really began to understand what Michael Touchstone was talking about and I realized that I don’t feel like I work with EMS professionals.  I feel like I work with EMS providers.

Now, I could list a great number of unprofessional attributes that I see providers demonstrating daily, but I think most managers and educators would be able to list those similar attributes, and really that isn’t the point.  I think generally, we would all have a similar idea of what is considered to be professional behavior and what is considered not to be professional behavior.  What I’m more interested in exploring is the precipice of when the expectation of professional behavior outweighs the excuse of not having to act in professional manner.

Michael Touchstone writes an excellent leadership development series in EMS World Magazine related to the professional development of the EMS provider.  I know I’ll be re-visiting these articles this week and I’ll be looking for ways to implement his suggestions into my own practice as well as infuse ideas into the practice of providers that I interact with on a regular basis.

It is my firm belief that to make change, you must become the change you wish to see.  Lead by example and others will follow, but I don’t believe this is the best way or only activity needed to increase professionalism in my department.

Beyond Michael Touchstone’s suggestions, I need to address the Crisis of Confidence that I see in the private ambulance EMS provider on a daily basis.  Fellow blogger Kindofafireguy indicated in a comment in my blog earlier this week that the Fire and EMS industry has “200 years of tradition unimpeded by progress”.  Follow my blog as I explore more about this dynamic and talk about the Crisis of Confidence and join me in finding solutions to the barriers that keep EMS providers from becoming EMS professionals.