Trending Topics

Pinnacle EMS Quick Take: Lead EMS by rocking the boat

Jay Fitch, PhD, explains the importance of disruption for EMS to innovate and prepare for the rapid change coming to the industry


Instead of hunkering down in choppy waters, Jay Fitch, PhD, called on EMS leaders and paramedic chiefs to rock the boat at the Pinnacle EMS leadership forum. (Photo/Pinnacle EMS)

ORLANDO, Fla. — EMS leaders operate in an environment of constant change and challenge. Instead of hunkering down in choppy waters, Jay Fitch, PhD, called on EMS leaders and paramedic chiefs to rock the boat at the Pinnacle EMS leadership forum.

Leaders need to challenge the status quo by shaking up leadership theories, competencies and practices to remain effective. Fitch outlined a broad set of leadership improvement concepts to positively rock the boat within an EMS organization:

  • Gaining alignment

  • Igniting engagement

  • Enlisting ownership

  • Enhancing accountability

  • Deepening commitment

Memorable quotes to guide EMS leaders in boat rocking

Fitch used the metaphor of rocking the boat throughout his presentation. Leaders who captain a boat that is rocking know they are moving. If those leaders are willing to raise a sail or put oars in the water, the boat is able to move toward a desired destination. Here are five memorable quotes from Fitch’s presentation:

“Too many leaders are brainwashed for complacency.”

“We can’t be afraid to rock the boat because that’s our job.”

“The move to the future isn’t going to be easy for us because we are tradition bound.”

”Clear and consistent communication is critical for successful change leadership.”

“Leaders are responsible for alignment, empowerment and improvement. Leaders build teams to implement their vision.”

Top takeaways on rocking the EMS boat

Fitch’s presentations are always memorable and inspiring. Here are four top takeaways on changing EMS organizations by the rocking the boat from Fitch’s presentation.

1. Tsunamis that will fundamentally change EMS are coming fast

Change is happening fast in society at large and many of those changes will disrupt EMS, despite our best attempts to resist change. Some of those major winds of change are:

  • Demographic shifts

  • Disruptive technology

  • Provider paradigms

  • Treatment

  • Payer coverage

  • Leadership

Fitch also describing the quickening pace of knowledge growth. Fifty years ago, medical knowledge took more than 50 years to double. Now, medical knowledge – all the things known about anatomy, physiology and pathophysiology – doubles every 7.3 years. In addition to medical knowledge, here are other factors that are impacting EMS today and into the future:

  • Telemedicine

  • Artificial intelligence

  • Knowledge growth

  • Societal and workforce issues

  • Technology

2. Boat rocking is disruptive

Fitch encouraged EMS leaders to rock the boat and be disruptors in healthcare. AirBnB and Netflix have disrupted their industries. Healthcare is sure to be disrupted by emerging companies, like Uber Health, or companies to be founded soon.

Apple, Amazon and WalMart are already impacting the delivery of healthcare in the United States. “Walmart’s centers of excellent found 54% of people with back pain could be treated in non-surgical ways,” Fitch said. “Walmart has changed its co-pays for virtual visits (telemedicine) from $40 to $4.”

3. Choose change, rather than reacting to change

EMS leaders, according to Fitch, can either react to the crises created by disruption or choose to participate in creating the disruption. Reacting to change in a moment of crisis is more expensive and more stressful than anticipating change. Boat rockers seek out change, but not as a troublemaker. A boat rocker creates solutions. A troublemaker complains about problems. Boat rockers are passionate and optimistic. A troublemaker is pessimistic and energy sapping.

“Many in EMS view anyone who challenges the status quo as a troublemaker,” Fitch said. “A boat rocker, when their voice is not heard or acknowledged, often become frustrated troublemakers.”

4. Lead from the front of the boat

Fitch encouraged leaders to lead from the front of the boat. Leaders who are in front are more aware of conflict, trust, accountability, commitment and team results. A leader who is rocking the boat will:

  • Relentlessly challenge status quo

  • Break the rules

  • Say the unsaid

  • Spread the innovation virus

  • Seed the profession with leaders

Fitch finished the presentation by encouraging the audience to join him in engaging with other leaders with diverse perspectives, getting out of their comfort zone, and creating bridges and access to solve problems.

“Be a servant. Be a leader. Rock the boat,” Fitch said.

Learn more

To learn more about leadership and boat rocking read the articles in the Fitch & Associates Leadership Edge column, as well as these EMS1 articles.

Greg Friese, MS, NRP, is the Lexipol Editorial Director, leading the efforts of the editorial team on Police1, FireRescue1, Corrections1 and EMS1. Greg served as the EMS1 editor-in-chief for five years. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a master’s degree from the University of Idaho. He is an educator, author, national registry paramedic since 2005, and a long-distance runner. Greg was a 2010 recipient of the EMS 10 Award for innovation. He is also a three-time Jesse H. Neal award winner, the most prestigious award in specialized journalism, and the 2018 and 2020 Eddie Award winner for best Column/Blog. Connect with Greg on LinkedIn.