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5 ways to connect with front-line staff

People don’t leave bad jobs; they leave bad managers. Are you taking the steps to build relationships with your providers?


Check out these takeaways from the EMS1 Chief Insights series.

Photo/Frederick County (Md.) Fire Rescue

Leadership requires operational coordination, resource management, effective communication, decision-making, conflict resolution and guidance to support the organization’s core values. Yet the EMS profession is rife with leaders promoted for their clinical skills, without the foundational training to manage others. Fill out the form on this article page to download these tips, plus 3 bonus tips from EMS management guru, Chris Cebollero.

The What paramedics want in 2023 report identified poor leadership as the No. 1 stressor for EMTs and paramedics, yet only 14% of respondents noted their organizations frequently use internal leadership training (with another 28% using occasionally and 11% planning to adopt).

In 2023, EMS1 launched The EMS Leader Playbook with a wealth of resources to help new and seasoned leaders enhance their leadership KSAs, develop trust among their medics and build their confidence, including Chief Insights, a series spotlighting advice from new and rising leaders making their mark on the profession.

Following are 5 takeaways from the Chief Insights column to hone your leadership style and ensure you are part of the solution at your agency.

Email to offer your insights as part of our Chief Insights column or to recommend an all-star leader.

  1. Stand up for your personnel. “Listen to both sides of the story before making my final decision. Praise in public, but discipline in private. Provide small gifts as a token of appreciation for doing a good job and/or stepping up – whether that is a pat on the back or a team dinner.” — Nicholas E. Louros, EMT-B, vice president/chief of operations, Eastchester (New York) Volunteer Ambulance Corps, Inc.
  2. Extend your trust. “Our relationships need to be built on trust. Trust is mutual. As their chief, it is my job to extend my trust to my personnel, before asking them to trust me in return. This doesn’t mean that everything is perfect; extending trust means that I know their intentions and purpose in their work. Every conversation I have with those who report directly to me has to start with that premise. I trust why they are doing things. Then, when we sometimes have to discuss how we get our common goals accomplished, we are doing so from a collaborative, trusting team approach. When we have a good pattern of communication and trust, it is easy for me to stand up for them if needed.” — Chief Holly vanSchaick, fire chief of Orcas Island Fire & Rescue, in Eastsound, Washington.
  3. Promote autonomy. “My primary goal is to provide our crews with a sincere understanding and commitment to their purpose as EMS providers. From there, I need to give them the tools to be successful – mastery – through supporting their education and ensuring they have the tools to do their job. Finally, they must be given the autonomy to take ownership of the education and tools provided to create successful results.” — Russell Goodman, chief, North Seneca Ambulance, Waterloo, N.Y.
  4. Demonstrate mutual respect. “In my current agency, we rarely use rank when addressing each other. We respect the person, not the rank and we show that mutual respect by addressing each other by name not title. My interaction with my coworkers usually always begins with small talk about life and current events. We are coworkers and humans living in the same world, facing similar challenges away from work, first. Secondly, we work together in a ranked structure adhered to out of mutual respect. We work with the line staff to create operational goals which we then see through to fruition.” — Shaun Ford, division chief of EMS for the Camas-Washougal Fire Department in Washington.
  5. Establish communication channels. “In order for our personnel to perform well in their roles, we must provide a clear avenue for communication, address their concerns and continuously work towards anticipating their needs. We do not expect perfection and use every opportunity as a means of learning. Always be willing to do yourself what you ask of your employees. I strive to find opportunities to alleviate stress from those who I am honored to lead and empower them with the right tools and knowledge they need to be successful.” — Nicolas Smith, LP, NRP, division chief-clinical, Montgomery County Hospital District, Texas

Additional resources

EMS leaders featured in the Chief Insights column recommend the following resources to hone your leadership skills:

Kerri Hatt is editor-in-chief, EMS1, responsible for defining original editorial content, tracking industry trends, managing expert contributors and leading execution of special coverage efforts. Prior to joining Lexipol, she served as an editor for medical allied health B2B publications and communities.

Kerri has a bachelor’s degree in English from Saint Joseph’s University, in Philadelphia. She is based out of Charleston, SC. Share your personal and agency successes, strategies and stories with Kerri at