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5 things EMS must do in 2012

Let's all try to work toward progress and the maturation of our industry

In a seeming blink of the proverbial eye, 2011 is coming to a close.

Is it me, or do the years seem to be getting shorter? It feels like we move from one headline story to the next, hardly pausing to consider the impact of such events to our current or future situation.

The presidential race is already in full swing, our military is drawing down its troops in Iraq while still grappling with the issues in Afghanistan, and the economy is still bruised and battered by four years of recession.

In EMS, we spent another year without a federal home, saw increasing interest in community paramedics, and crashed our ambulances on an alarming basis.

Social media still made bad moral decisions stand out like sore thumbs. I can definitely go on with our profession's foibles; some days I just shake my head and wonder how we persevere.

But, being a glass-half-full kinda guy, I'd rather work toward progress and the maturation of our industry. Here are some ideas:

1) Let's get education on track. Paramedic should be an associate's degree. EMTs and Advanced EMTs should require more anatomy and physiology.

Educators should know more than the book, and be trained to teach, in order to push students to a higher standard. Not everyone can be successful in EMS, and that's okay.

2) Push for a living wage. That would include a working environment that doesn't require 60-80 hours a week in order to make ends meet. EMS providers have families, take vacations, save for retirement. Don't all of us deserve that?

3) Be more than what we are. The only constant in life is change. EMS is no different. To not evolve is to perish. We can do more to benefit our community, to be more meaningful and have a more effective mission.

I hate to disappoint some of you, but we have been around long enough to have our own dinosaurs. Johnny and Roy have been gone a long, long time. Why do we still think in that paradigm?

4) Be the master. EMS exists at the nexus of public safety, public health and health care. The overlap of function varies from one region to the next, but the general premise is clear: we are a jack of all trades, and master of none. This cannot continue to exist; we need to be masters of all we do.

5) Commit to service excellence. We would all like to think we provide the highest quality service. Fact is, most of us provide the best service we can, given the circumstances. The two concepts do not mean the same thing.

Quality Excellence is an active process. It never happens naturally, but mediocrity does. That's why we call the middle of the bell curve "average."

To really be excellent requires real courage to ask what we can do better, even when things don't appear broken.

It means questioning the paradigm, even when everything seems "normal." To not ask these fundamental questions is to promote the status quo, to reinforce tradition.

For me, I'm going to be more deliberate in asking these questions through this column in 2012. You may not agree with me … and I hope you'll let me know.

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