I recently spoke with Jon Politis, Chief of Colonie EMS and the proprietor of the Emergency Consulting Group about his Supervisor Survival Bootcamp. The seminar is a safety and supervisor briefing for Fire Rescue, EMS, and Ambulance Service managers. Topics that are covered include:

  • Boss Behaviors
  • Legal traps to avoid
  • Time management
  • Coaching and counseling
  • Progressive discipline
  • Risk management
  • Case studies
  • Strengthening your credibility
  • Improving your productivity
  • Communications
  • Ethics

The first part of the bootcamp focuses on the transition from buddy to boss and the ethical boundaries encountered. Managing your team, fleet, and organization while being ethical and balancing your personal life is *the* challenge. There are plenty of positives of being promoted to a supervisor: new title, increased pay, and being off the road. There also some negatives, as well as challenges that clinical education does not prepare a new supervisor for.

So often, departments place more emphasis on the promotional process than preparing newly promoted supervisors to function effectively.

Jon covers the different types of employees (A, B, C), and the corrective action needed for each type of employee. A employees, or “alpha dogs”, need little direction and operate on a conscious competence. They are role models for other employees. B employees comprise approximately seventy percent of the workforce. They are the anchors in the organization and are unconsciously competent. The remaining ten percent, C employees, are unconsciously incompetent. C employees require a lot of supervision and can consume almost ninety percent of management’s time!

You’ll learn from current experts who’ll share the bottom line on over 20 essential topics that new supervisors must know.

Jon discusses how experts, such as Retired Fire Chief Alan Brunacini from Phoenix, Arizona, focuses on simple objectives, such as getting to the scene promptly, giving a good first impression, and being nice (customer service). Your crew needs to know what you expect of them, and they need to strive for the natural and common-sense principles of responding and treating patients. How you convey the Standard Operating Procedures/Guidelines (SOP/SOG) is your challenge. Whether you adopt the Red-Yellow-Green coloring system, use what already is in place, or design your own process will be what you have to fall back on when there is a deviation from procedure. The interactive workshop will dive into case studies to strengthen your time management & productivity, communications, ethics and progressive discipline.

Jon talks about how EMT training doesn’t set the newbie up for success in your organization. As the supervisor, you need to have a mentor or Field Training Officer (FTO) to guide the newcomer. There is more to the standard policy and procedures to be covered; socialization and organizational culture are another component of the agency process.

Digging deeper, there are some organizational problems cannot be fixed by training. Attitude and effort cannot be amended with a training session. Assessing performance problems take considerable analysis and energy.

Jon and I also discussed how current trends are affecting EMS in the past ten years. Many organizations are struggling to do more with less. There are fewer resources available and demands for Emergency Services are increasing. EMS doesn’t always receive the same allocation of resources that other first responder colleagues get. EMS also doesn’t get the same respect, which can stem from the lack of team work and cooperation behind the curve as establishing EMS as an occupation.

Clinically, Emergency Medicine is driven by complex decisions and procedures. A lot of the decisions are pushed back to Advanced Life Support (ALS) providers, which changes the job. This may be good for patient care, but certainly makes it harder for volunteer or mixed agencies to field a crew. It is hard for EMTs to develop a skill base where ALS immediately assumes care. Basic EMS providers or first responders do not get to “practice” their skills if ALS is on the ambulance or arriving in a fly-car the same time as the basic crew arrives. There is less of a mental challenge with an ALS provider on scene than having a Basic EMT have to adapt to a situation.

As a provider you have to bring your A Game to tackle the job. This creates a big issue for the occasional medic, possibly making them extinct. More and more procedures and equipment are added to the “pre-hospital toolbox”. These responsibilities have shifted from a controlled in-hospital setting to the field. As a provider, you previously assisted with medications. Now you administer medications, and more medications are added each year. The number and variety of instruments, methods and technology to be familiar/proficient with all precipitate a battle for volunteers and agencies.

Sometimes policy changes result in additional responsibilities being shifted onto agencies. “Clinical performance and supervision of staff are two areas that the organization has to concern themselves with more. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, just what I see”, Jon said.

These are insights of recent changes and predictions of what will continue to occur. With the insight of future challenges, the Bootcamp topics will help better prepare your squad to adapt to these developments.

UHS Hospitals is having their 22nd Annual Emergency Medicine & Trauma Teaching Day Saturday April 17, 2010, in Binghamton, NY.

Intended audience includes providers of emergency medical care, including first responders, EMTs, Paramedics, fire fighters, critical care nurses, and all those involved in pre-hospital, emergency and trauma care.


  • Between Good And Evil – Predicting and Preventing Violence in American Institutions
  • Precious Cargo – Complex Pediatric Emergencies
  • Tactical and Operational Medicine – A Primer
  • Battlefield Emergency Care – Lessons Learned in Baghdad
  • Picking Up The Pieces – Managing Catastrophic Emergencies One Patient At A Time
  • Resiliency, Heroes And Healing

National faculty including:

  • Roger Depue, Ph.D., Retired Unit Chief of FBI Behavioral Sciences Unit
  • Scott Bolleter, BS, EMT-P, Flight Paramedic
  • Lt. Col. John Groves, RN, MSN, Clinical Nurse Specialist U.S. Army
  • Greg Winsor, RN, BSN, FBI Special Agent Operational Medicine Coordinator

For more information download the Brochure/Application.

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