How to attain your EMS career goals

EMS leaders can use a professional development plan to identify and attain short-term and long-term goals


As EMS leaders, our day is spent taking care of the fires that seem to consume the work day. The mess of the day might be the schedule; three sick calls, six open shifts this weekend, trucks not back from maintenance, computer connectivity issues, and of course assisting your employees with their needs, concerns and helping them develop into great clinicians.

As the EMS leader you set your priorities, tackle the tasks and get up and do it all over again tomorrow. During your daily responsibilities, how much time do you spend thinking about your own personal development plan? This is usually one of the topics you fail to address, but yet one of the most important processes in developing into a better leader. Let’s take a look at how to focus on your personal development.

Importance of personal growth 

Your own personal and professional development is paramount for long-term job satisfaction and advancement. Consider your personal growth and developing your leadership skills an expedition. Just like we take the time to plan a vacation, it is just as vital to chisel out your potential as a leader. This is a professional journey that if done correctly will never end. Developing into the best leader you can holds very significant rewards for you in your career, relationships, employee growth, and developing organizational excellence. 

Developing your plan

Start your Personal Development Plan (PDP) by brainstorming where you are right now in your career. Ask yourself these questions:

  • How am I performing in my current role? Determine your strengths, challenges, where you excel, and areas where you fall short. This needs to be an honest self-assessment. Talk to your own leaders, peers and workforce. Asking the workforce how you can do a better job for them is a very powerful question.
  • What are your short-term career goals? Remember, this is about your personal development and not the short-term goals of the organization.
  • What are your learning opportunities? We have formal learning opportunities, like college courses and on-line classes, as well as informal opportunities like attending conferences or reading leadership literature.

As you answer these questions write down your answers and thoughts. Give yourself the opportunity to determine the areas where you need assistance. Once this self-reflection process is completed, write down any career goals that you may have considered during this process.

Goals and actions

After your brainstorming session, you should have a basic plan of initial ideas and your development opportunities. In your PDP, write a short statement for your short and long-term goals. Also list specific actions you will address in this next year to achieve your goals. Let’s look at an example:

To achieve my long-term goal of becoming an EMS chief I need to complete an advanced degree. I also need to improve my written and oral communication skills, self-awareness about how I am perceived by the workforce, and ability to motivate personnel to achieve their own personnel goals. My immediate short-term goals are to:

  • Research advanced degree programs
  • Apply and gain acceptance to a degree program
  • Find a professional mentor to guide my communication skills development

Creating goals

As an EMS leader, you never shy away from a challenge. When developing your own personal goals, allow yourself to be tough. Think about some real stretch goals. If your goal is an advanced degree, taking one class a semester gets you three classes completed by the end of the year. There is no harm in saying you will achieve this goal, but if you could stretch, four would be better.

Start your PDP with one long-term goal to accomplish in three to five years and three to five short-term goals to complete in the next six to 24 months.

Develop your goals using the SMART format, a great outline for success.

S – Specific. Be specific in developing your goals; make sure they are clear, focused, concise, and well defined.

M – Measurable. Goals should be measurable; you need to have time frames, dates, or number of credits to take. It is vital to measure your success. How will you know you get there if you cannot measure the outcome?

A – Attainable. Everyone loves a challenge and this is about your personal development. Challenge yourself, but make sure you can reach this goal.

R – Realistic. Nothing beats you down faster than developing a goal that is out of reach. Remember, you are setting these. Ensure goals are manageable, attainable, and believable.

T – Time. A goal is a dream with a deadline. Ensure your goals have a starting point, a realistic timeline and an ending point. Attaining a bachelor’s degree will require accomplishing a series of time-focused goals.

Enjoy the win

When you reach a goal, celebrate this accomplishment. Enjoy the moment and reflect on the road that got you there, and the progress you’ve made. Remember this is a step in reaching your personal development.  

Adjust the plan

If there is still work to complete after achieving a goal, ask yourself the following questions to adjust your plan accordingly:

  • Was this goal easily attained? If so, make the next one harder
  • Did this goal take too long to achieve? If so, make the next one a bit easier
  • What did you learn about yourself along the way?
  • Do you have new goals to consider?

Own your professional development

When you think of your professional development, you have to be the sole resource in reaching career goals. You spend lots of time developing organization success, developing your leadership team and developing your workforce. As you grow as a leader, you not only become a better leader, but everyone that follows you will benefit as well from your growth.

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