Lead from the front lines: Care for our caregivers

By Jay Fitch, PhD
Fitch & Associates

The COVID-19 pandemic is challenging EMS and other parts of healthcare systems throughout the world. It’s frequently described as a war. From the caregiver’s perspective, we are losing the battle. EMS caregivers are particularly hard hit, often facing intolerable pressures at both work and home. As leaders, our job is to support our caregivers and other team members. We need to turn fear into courage by our leadership actions. EMS leaders set direction, build an inspiring vision and create culture by visibly leading and managing risk from the front lines of the battlefield.

In aviation, the anachronym PAVE is used to remind pilots of the key elements of risk management. I’ve adapted the concept for EMS to help us remember key tasks as EMS leaders.

  • Process changes during the crisis. Leaders should modify work processes, workflows and personnel schedules to make sure that we optimize the agency’s response capabilities. That includes adapting emergency medical dispatch protocols, and emergency and non-emergency response parameters. Temporarily modifying municipal contract requirements and working with state officials to allow recently retired personnel to re-enter the workforce is another step. It may even mean utilizing non-certified volunteers or wheelchair transport personnel to drive units to otherwise provide relief for the workforce. We have to practice the art of flexibility during this crisis.

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