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Conflict resolution and the importance of teamwork in EMS

Building a strong EMS team requires open communication and conflict resolution mediation when necessary


Especially in EMS, it is important to have strong and collaborative teams.


By Allison G. S. Knox, Faculty Member at American Military University

Working in emergency medical services (EMS) can be extremely stressful for responders. To provide the best service to patients under such conditions, it’s critical that EMS teams be comprised of a group of trusted people.

However, building a strong team is easier said than done. When team members do not mesh well, it can add stress to an already stressful environment. It is important for those in EMS to know how they fit into the team environment and contribute to the overall team effort. Individuals must also know how to effectively diffuse and overcome any challenges that may arise within the team.

Some scholars argue that individuals come together with the “forming, norming, storming, performing” framework. According to researcher Judith Stein, under this framework, people essentially need to figure each other out and work out their differences. After doing so, they are much better able to effectively perform as a team.

Discuss issues openly

In all teams, it is inevitable that there will be conflicts among members, which can make it difficult to work together. When this situation arises, it is important for team members to talk out their differences directly. It does not help the situation or the team performance to turn the situation into gossip. When team members discuss their differences openly, they are often able to come to a resolution.

Turn to mediation

There may be times when team members cannot work out their differences. When this happens, mediation can often be an effective solution. In EMS, it is important to discuss these issues with the chief or another person in a managerial position. The goal is not to get someone into trouble but rather to come to a mutual understanding and compromise over the issue at hand.

Especially in EMS, it is important to have strong and collaborative teams. Ultimately, each team member is responsible for his or her role in the team and must figure out how to work together and to iron out differences before it becomes an issue. Speaking to each other about these issues in a civilized fashion is ideal, but mediation may be needed if initial discussions are not constructive.

About the Author

Allison G.S. Knox is an emergency medical technician and a political scientist, focusing on Emergency Management and Emergency Medical Services policy. She is a faculty member at American Military University and has taught at the undergraduate level since 2010. Prior to teaching, Allison worked in a level-one trauma center emergency department and for a member of congress in Washington, D.C.

She holds four Master’s degrees in Emergency Management, National Security Studies, International Relations and History. She also has a Graduate Certificate in Homeland Security and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. She is trained in water safety instruction and large animal emergency rescue.

She serves on the Board of Trustees for Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society and also serves as the Advocacy Coordinator of Virginia for the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. Knox is a contributor to EDM Digest and In Public Safety, American Military University sponsored websites. To contact the author, please email

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