Inside EMS Podcast: Why field training officers should be good teachers

FTOs should not only bridge the gap between the classroom and the street, but pass on agency culture to new hires, and serve as mentors in the department

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In this week’s Inside EMS Podcast, co-hosts Chris Cebollero and Kelly Grayson discuss the importance of having a good field training officer that can not only introduce new employees the organization’s policies and procedures, but serve as an educator and mentor.

The FTO’s role should be to “not only bridge the gap between classroom and street, but to pass on the knowledge and traditions and agency culture to make sure people are a good fit,” Grayson said. “You can’t do that if you’re not an effective teacher.”

Too often, FTOs focus on evaluating rather than educating Grayson said.

“What we often lose sight of is they think there’s some artificial dividing line between practicioner and student,” Grayson said. But having a certification card doesn’t change who they are as a provider, and FTOs need to focus more on the individual needs of the person being trained.

Cebollero points out that once the FTO process is over, providers rarely return to the FTO for advice.

“We don’t do enough mentoring and cultivate relationships that are going to last beyond the FTO process,” Grayson said. “And I think that’s something we need to do.”

In the news

Cebollero and Grayson also review EMS news from this week, and congratulate Pennsylvania high school students in an EMT program who revived an elderly man visiting the school for a musical program. He suffered a cardiac arrest and they initiated CPR and got ROSC. 

“I’d like to give a public shout out to these guys,” Grayson said. “Welcome to a new career in EMS, and strong work!”

They also commended two Oregon paramedics who saw a commotion in the street, and pulled over in their ambulance to help stop a child abduction. They saw a man trying to kidnap a woman’s 2-year-old son, claiming it was his sister’s child.

“Now when we see things that shouldn’t be happening … we’re stepping in and making a difference here,” Cebollero said.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, they discuss a former firefighter who took several people hostage inside a Pennsylvania firehouse. The SWAT team was at the scene, and the situation ended without any violence. It’s not yet clear what motivated the firefighter to take people hostage, and Cebollero and Grayson bring up the point that you never expect violence from the people who you think have your back.

“We’ve said this a million times – keep your head on a swivel, always be alert,” Grayson said. “But how alert can you be if it’s a former co-worker, an acquaintance, a colleague? Are you always on red alert for those kind of things?”

They also applaud a Baltimore EMS restructuring plan to relive a chronically understaffed force. The changes will create a new two-tier response system and allow the department to hire 50 additional paramedics. 

“Last year two dozen paramedics made a combined $1.9 million in overtime,” Cebollero said. “I have to say it twice Kelly, because I can’t believe it.”

I don’t think anyone experiencing the reality of what it takes to earn that kind of money would willingly do it,” Grayson said. 

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