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Elements of Leadership
by Chris Cebollero

8 great EMS motivational tips

To lead and inspire an EMS team, motivation must first come from within

By Chris Cebollero

One of the most essential jobs of EMS leader is to motivate those around them.

The first step is accepting one inevitable truth: your team is counting on you to be a role model and mentor. The keys are to help people feel terrific about themselves, make staff feel like they are part of a winning team, and try to ensure that everyone feels competent, successful, and respected by others.

Emotional intelligence (EI) is defined by the ability to understand and manage not only our own emotions, but also the emotions of those around us. It’s broken down into five components: self awareness, self regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills. In our third installment of examining the elements of EI, we take a look at motivation.

8 ways to motivate yourself

There are two key approaches for motivating yourself:

  • Whatever the task, make it intrinsically interesting and satisfying to you.
  • Then provide your own extrinsic rewards.

This  combination is one of the most effective ways to motivate yourself, and it can be applied to many undesirable tasks at work.

1. Set go­­als

By setting goals for both personal and professional development, you will know exactly what you need to do to achieve what you want in life. Having your eye on the big picture puts unfavorable tasks into perspective, and helps you see how they can actually help you reach your goals.

Think about the goals that can be achieved in EMS. Develop a list of short-term goals, six-month goals, and long-term goals to move your career forward.

2. Share goals

Sharing goals with your manager and peers helps build in accountability. Knowing that someone else is expecting you to complete a certain task can help keep you motivated. In our daily duties as EMS professionals, it is paramount we not only hold ourselves accountable, but the folks we deal with every day. Set the standards for others to follow.

3. Master time management

In EMS it seems we live and die by the clock. An important key to staying motivated is learning to take control of your time. Response times, total task times and scene times are used in our daily responsibilities. The number one way to master time management in the ambulance is to have a strong understanding of how long it takes for your crew to complete necessary tasks. Develop a schedule of tasks and estimate how long it will take to complete them to help manage your time more efficiently.

4. Reward yourself

When motivation is low, it’s easy to put off until tomorrow what you can accomplish today. Procrastinating is a true recipe for disaster. Try offering yourself a reward after completing a task or reaching a goal as a reward for staying on track.

This is something we need to do more often. For instance, eating right always seems to be a challenge in EMS. Set that as a goal, and tell, yourself you are going to eat as healthy as possible on the truck, but on the weekend you will order that pizza. In my experience, one great, greasy burger does the trick.

5. Be your own cheerleader

Sometimes, just telling yourself that you can achieve something is all it takes to get started. Positive thinking and positive self-talk are very powerful allies, as is surrounding yourself with positive people who will support and encourage you to keep moving forward.

When we deal with life and death on a daily basis, it’s easy to get lost in our patients’ emergencies. Keep telling yourself you’re there to make a difference and deliver the best patient care possible. We are in control of our own happiness.

6. Get feedback

In EMS we do not use feedback to the best of our ability. It seems we get defensive when folks offer comments or criticism of our medicine.

Feedback, either objective or subjective, is essential for sustaining a high level of drive. Ask those in your chain of command, mentors and colleagues how they view your work, and request advice on how to polish or develop needed skills. This should be one of your best tools to develop in your delivery of emergency medicine.

7. Raise your expectations  

One of my favorite quotes is, “It’s hard to be good when you dream of being the best.” EMS is one of those professions where we have to give 100 percent at all times. When you raise your level of expectation, you are likely to achieve more. By continually telling yourself you expect to succeed, you will find yourself succeeding. Do not be the reason you are settling for “good” when you have the ability to be the best.

8. Cultivate a strong work ethic  

A strong work ethic is a set of values based on the ideals of hard work and discipline to do the best job possible. Once you believe there is true value in the work you do, there will be a joy in working hard, and you will find work more motivating. As an EMS provider, your partner and peers will look to you to set the standards for others to follow. A strong work ethic is contagious.

As an EMS leader you have the power of choice, which will lead to personal independence along the path to success. The strongest leaders start with the belief that every obstacle contains an opportunity. They do not see problems; just solutions that they are motivated to find.

It’s important we follow our dreams, reach our goals and never give up. Self-motivation is an important part of being a successful leader with strong emotional intelligence.

Live your life by using the three “P’s”: persistence, patience, and perseverance. As you visualize your success, that mental picture of what you are looking to accomplish enhances self-motivation. 

About the author

Chris Cebollero is a nationally recognized Emergency Medical Services leader, author, and advocate. Chris is a member of the John Maxwell Team and available for speaking, coaching and mentoring. Currently Chris is the Chief of Christian Hospital EMS in North St Louis County.
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