EMS Anchors – or – How to succeed in EMS without really trying

Chances are, since you’re actually going through the effort of checking online, you are on a different path than 80% of your co-workers, brothers and sisters in our young Profession.  But do you know the warning signs of an EMS Anchor?

I made another word, didn’t I…

An EMS Anchor is someone who refuses to seek out additional training, resources, information, research to be better at what they do.  Instead of stepping up and learning more about 12 leads, they wait for the machine to interpret the strip, of course after using the reference card for lead placement.

Anchors often have sloppy charting skills, both on paper and especially since the check boxes on the computer made it easier for them to ignore a complete secondary assessment.

The person complaining that they get paid too little while refusing to wash their rig, stock it to spec, or even stay 5 minutes late to refuel it for the next crew is an Anchor.

And there are some big anchors out there, both in girth and in effect.  we need to have a healthy outlook and healthy attitude, but the Anchors constantly complain, groan when a long distance transfer comes in over lunch time and pass that frustration along to the patient, staff, family and you.

Anchors don’t read the new protocols, instead they wait for you to tell them they can’t find the lidocaine because you’ve been using Amiodarone for 3 years.

Continuing Education is a 4 letter word to Anchors, always avoiding it with this excuse or that, somehow always getting the cards and merit badges to keep their license.

Anchors are in every system, Department and service in the nation and I’ll assume the world.  So what do we do about them?  THEY are the true liability in your service, a grim reaper in hiding, just waiting for a complicated case to come along and kill someone.  Then where will you be?  In court defending how you certified this person 2 weeks ago yet they claim they didn’t know the new policies.  These system dragging EMTs and Paramedics can’t be simply cut loose to right our ship, we would certainly falter without enough people to handle the work we have, let alone the increase call volume the Boomer Generation is about to bring us.

But the other problem is the Administrations overseeing the continuation of the Anchor culture.  Some are in their positions due to merit, others appointment, still others placed by an owner who demands a bottom line instead of clinical results.  Anchors are above you as well and they can be difficult to remove.

So we’ve established what an EMS Anchor is and where they can be found and I’d wager teching on that bed bugs case that you have at least 2 people from your system in mind as Anchors.  Do you think they know it?

TELL THEM.

(insert name here), do you have a minute?  I was hoping I could share a concern I’ve noticed in the way you perform your duties here at (insert name of service).  We both know you do the absolute minimum and that is on a good day, but I’m worried you’re not doing enough for your patients, this service and our Profession by skating by at recerts and not trying to learn more about what you do.  If this is your plan for the rest of your time here that is your right and you are certainly entitled to duck responsibility when you see fit, but I will not stand for it.  EMS deserves attentive, passionate care givers.  Maybe 10 years ago simply doing the basics was the norm, but you’re behind the times now.  I want to help you be the provider you can be and have a number of resources I recommend from magazines like JEMS and EMSWorld, to online communities like EMTLife, JEMSConnect and EMS United.  (insert name of local EMS Agency or group) also has 1 hour CE offerings so you can learn more while not giving up an entire day.  Here’s my number, call me if you ever want to meet up to talk business outside the office.  We all have a place in the future of EMS, if we try hard enough.

It will take an effort on all our parts to address the EMS Anchors in our own systems.  So get out there and find them, inspire them and mentor them into the future of EMS as a Profession.

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22 thoughts on “EMS Anchors – or – How to succeed in EMS without really trying”

  1. Happy you’re right. Some people coast along with their eyes looking at their feet, some people have their heads up looking for the next step or change in direction. Thankfully we have you EMS Oracle. Great stuff.

  2. Happy you’re right. Some people coast along with their eyes looking at their feet, some people have their heads up looking for the next step or change in direction. Thankfully we have you EMS Oracle. Great stuff.

  3. My career was cut in half so I only served 15 years but but I must have ‘burnt out’ 3 times although I never took it out on the patient. Other than that these were among the symptoms. Nobody intervened. I had to have a long talk with myself. The last time I had hair up my butt about dispatch who didn’t seem to have any idea what they sound like on my end. So I got in the habit of stopping by and hanging in the break room for an hour or two after my shift. Because of my efforts they changed their schedule to let each dispatcher ride with us once a week. It changed a lot of attitudes. I did that. Just little ol me. That was in the early 90s not long before I left. So what positive thing have you done about your gripes in your service? I know you have. Bragging is allowed.

  4. My career was cut in half so I only served 15 years but but I must have ‘burnt out’ 3 times although I never took it out on the patient. Other than that these were among the symptoms. Nobody intervened. I had to have a long talk with myself. The last time I had hair up my butt about dispatch who didn’t seem to have any idea what they sound like on my end. So I got in the habit of stopping by and hanging in the break room for an hour or two after my shift. Because of my efforts they changed their schedule to let each dispatcher ride with us once a week. It changed a lot of attitudes. I did that. Just little ol me. That was in the early 90s not long before I left. So what positive thing have you done about your gripes in your service? I know you have. Bragging is allowed.

  5. I think the subpar EMS administrators (whom you mostly let off the hook) and the universally abysmal state EMS bureaucrats (whom you entirely let off the hook) do WAY more to hold our profession back than the 5 – 10 % of nitwits on the streets. I’ve been in some of the most high-performing organizations in the military and EMS, and I’ve been in some of the lowest-performing organizations, and the only thing that separates them is the quality of their leadership. In my opinion, you will always find a similar distribution amongst the frontline troops between go-getters and pogues. Quality leadership is what determines which of those two cultures is going to dominate and characterize your organization. It would be nice if your garage talk could actually turn a skulker into Johnny or Roy, but we’ve all been around the block enough to know all it’s going to do is make that lazy you-know-what defensive, hostile to you, and probably a worse employee. The best defense is a leadership that doesn’t allow a person like that in their organization in the first place, and moves quickly to move them on when they show themselves.

  6. I think the subpar EMS administrators (whom you mostly let off the hook) and the universally abysmal state EMS bureaucrats (whom you entirely let off the hook) do WAY more to hold our profession back than the 5 – 10 % of nitwits on the streets. I’ve been in some of the most high-performing organizations in the military and EMS, and I’ve been in some of the lowest-performing organizations, and the only thing that separates them is the quality of their leadership. In my opinion, you will always find a similar distribution amongst the frontline troops between go-getters and pogues. Quality leadership is what determines which of those two cultures is going to dominate and characterize your organization. It would be nice if your garage talk could actually turn a skulker into Johnny or Roy, but we’ve all been around the block enough to know all it’s going to do is make that lazy you-know-what defensive, hostile to you, and probably a worse employee. The best defense is a leadership that doesn’t allow a person like that in their organization in the first place, and moves quickly to move them on when they show themselves.

  7. consider also the education program they came from. where i am from, it makes a difference. some of the programs just throw the materials at them, and let them get by with minimums. when i went through (and i should have stuck with it, shame on me, i miss it) we had to perform like boot camp candidates. my personal instructor was the program director, and there was no room to slip. you either knew your business, every time you practiced, before you tested for it, or you didn’t. more programs need that, and more services need to spring surpise drills on their employees. after a certain number of fails from a series of surprise drills, the employees should have to pay out of pocket for a refresher where everything has to be passed 100%, and from a refresher service that is known to not just sign them off, they have to actually do it right, every time, for every skill. if they don’t pass, buh bye. schools crank out EMT’s all the time. you can’t tell me that there aren’t enough.

  8. consider also the education program they came from. where i am from, it makes a difference. some of the programs just throw the materials at them, and let them get by with minimums. when i went through (and i should have stuck with it, shame on me, i miss it) we had to perform like boot camp candidates. my personal instructor was the program director, and there was no room to slip. you either knew your business, every time you practiced, before you tested for it, or you didn’t. more programs need that, and more services need to spring surpise drills on their employees. after a certain number of fails from a series of surprise drills, the employees should have to pay out of pocket for a refresher where everything has to be passed 100%, and from a refresher service that is known to not just sign them off, they have to actually do it right, every time, for every skill. if they don’t pass, buh bye. schools crank out EMT’s all the time. you can’t tell me that there aren’t enough.

  9. EMS is a wonderful term that can be used to describe a firefighter who makes over one hundred thousand dollars a year or a transport EMT who makes less than twenty thousand dollars a year. Such an interesting field to study, Thank you for bringing these issues to the forefront.

  10. EMS is a wonderful term that can be used to describe a firefighter who makes over one hundred thousand dollars a year or a transport EMT who makes less than twenty thousand dollars a year. Such an interesting field to study, Thank you for bringing these issues to the forefront.

  11. HM,
    I have met and worked with a few anchors before and it is very diffcult. I worked with one and felt like I was working alone with a 2yr old in tow to babysit. The worst part is when I arrived for my shift I walked in and my partner was sitting in the crew room checking off the truck… REALLY SERIOUSLY UGHHHH…. I take the sheet from him and keys go out to the rig and use a red pen to correctly check the truck. This sheet looks horrible because the truck was missing a ton of stuff plus meds were expired. I turn the sheet into the supervisor and he says *** *** *** is this??? I reply the check sheet my partner thought cheking the truck off in the crew room was sufficent. So I proved him wrong by actually checking off the truck old school. By sitting in it looking counting and checking dates. All the red marks are the corrections. Supervisor shakes head laughs says you forgot to put the grade at the top so I leaned over the desk a put a sad face with and EF for Epic Fail. As I walk out I hear the supervisor say Thank you for doing your job.. Then we had a LD (long distant) transport during breakfst time. On the way back the anchor decided to take the long way back and go below the speed limit it took us twice as long to get back talk about wanting to scream and say some not so nice things… Needless to say the day continued with childish iressponsible lazy job preformance from said anchor. It was one of the most frustrating shifts I have ever had.

  12. HM,
    I have met and worked with a few anchors before and it is very diffcult. I worked with one and felt like I was working alone with a 2yr old in tow to babysit. The worst part is when I arrived for my shift I walked in and my partner was sitting in the crew room checking off the truck… REALLY SERIOUSLY UGHHHH…. I take the sheet from him and keys go out to the rig and use a red pen to correctly check the truck. This sheet looks horrible because the truck was missing a ton of stuff plus meds were expired. I turn the sheet into the supervisor and he says *** *** *** is this??? I reply the check sheet my partner thought cheking the truck off in the crew room was sufficent. So I proved him wrong by actually checking off the truck old school. By sitting in it looking counting and checking dates. All the red marks are the corrections. Supervisor shakes head laughs says you forgot to put the grade at the top so I leaned over the desk a put a sad face with and EF for Epic Fail. As I walk out I hear the supervisor say Thank you for doing your job.. Then we had a LD (long distant) transport during breakfst time. On the way back the anchor decided to take the long way back and go below the speed limit it took us twice as long to get back talk about wanting to scream and say some not so nice things… Needless to say the day continued with childish iressponsible lazy job preformance from said anchor. It was one of the most frustrating shifts I have ever had.

  13. While I do agree with what you write, I think that it is important to be aware of the culture of the organization and how resistant the entire organization can be. I have been fired for essentially doing what you recommend (not recently). There are also plenty of places that would not hire me because the whole purpose of working in EMS is to keep your head down and go along to get along.

    This does need to change, but we need to be politically savvy about the way we attempt to change things.

  14. While I do agree with what you write, I think that it is important to be aware of the culture of the organization and how resistant the entire organization can be. I have been fired for essentially doing what you recommend (not recently). There are also plenty of places that would not hire me because the whole purpose of working in EMS is to keep your head down and go along to get along.

    This does need to change, but we need to be politically savvy about the way we attempt to change things.

  15. What seems to happen to most EMS Anchors in my place is they get promoted to management positions. Where they try to tell medics who are current on their training and education how to do the job correctly. Just like they did it 20 years ago.

  16. What seems to happen to most EMS Anchors in my place is they get promoted to management positions. Where they try to tell medics who are current on their training and education how to do the job correctly. Just like they did it 20 years ago.

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