It’s three months into Bob’s career as a paramedic and he’s struggling to meet the job requirements. He is a new graduate, and this is his first job as a paramedic. While openly discussing concerns with Bob about his work performance he bravely shares his experience with field training in our organization. He explains that he was not placed with a field training officer during his field training third rides and expresses that he feels that he has missed valuable mentorship within our organization. He voiced feelings of confusion due to inconsistent and unclear expectations delivered by our personnel. He elaborated on how each third ride was vastly different. For example, he first trained with staff who openly did not have a desire to train students, then another staff member who was burned out and rowing the organizational engagement boat the opposite direction, and last, a staff member who was an engaged educator who had a desire to improve the organization. Thanks to Bob’s insight, I began to ponder the impact field training was having on our organization. Were we failing to provide our personnel training and mentorship they needed? Do we have an organizational blind spot?
The truth was field training had fallen through the cracks. Sure, it existed within our organization on paper but, nobody had direct oversight of the day to day. Our business demands were pressing and required much of our attention. Our field training program was a project on our list of things to develop. Much of our organizational energy was focused on billing and operational demands. What we did not realize is that field training is interwoven impacting every aspect of our EMS organization. Its influence reaches far beyond training new employees. Here is what I’ve learned about what a structured field training program can bring to an EMS organization:
1. Accountability: A structured field training program sets clear expectations. Well trained field training officers (FTO’s) are company champions and mentors. FTO’s are front line leaders in the field. They guide personnel and lead by example. When an expectation is not met it is the field training officer that remediates and mentors the employee. Their role is essential. With a well-structured sound field training program organizational clarity and accountability flow naturally.
2. High employee engagement and morale: High employee engagement and morale can happen for underperformers just as it can occur for top performers. A lack of standards and expectations engages the underperformer. An anything goes culture is a comfort to an underperformer. If you’ve ever worked in an underperforming organization, underperformers advocate for bad behavior and subpar standards. This culture can be supported in a poorly led agency lacking field training. Further, profitability decreases, and company costs rise because of underperformer apathy and carelessness. What happens when top performers join an organization that caters to the underperformers? They leave. A low accountability culture repels top performers. Top performers enjoy the structure and accountability that come along with sound field training.
3. A focus on customer satisfaction: The expectation around customer service and clinical care originates in field training. The field training officers clearly and consistently champion the organizations vision for customer service. Great companies care for their personnel by striving to provide and educate their staff about emotional intelligence, empathy, and compassion essential for caring for patients. Richard Branson says it best, “clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.”
4. Decreased costs and increased revenue: The cost of onboarding a new employee can range from 10K-20K. Employee retention is essential for cost reduction in an organization. Sure, development, implementation, and coordinating a field training program will cost you, but not nearly as much as clinical errors, employee retention issues, and operational errors.
5. Increased pay, benefits, and better equipment: A structured work environment combined with accountability breeds high employee morale and engagement which produces great customer service. Great customer service translates naturally into decreased company overhead and increased profit. This directly impacts wages, benefits, and equipment. Competitive pay and benefits are essential for attracting talent in today’s EMS landscape.
6. Enhanced Clinical Quality: Accountability, employee engagement, good morale, excellent customer service, decreased waste and increased profit, better pay, benefits and equipment, all contribute to enhanced organizational clinical quality. This all starts with sound field training.
Fig. 1 The Field Training Wheel
Disclaimer: These views are my own and are not affiliated with either of my fabulous employers.