Author: Tim Nowak
Eat a little less junk food, lose a little excess body weight, save money for a family trip… we’ve all made New Years’ resolutions similar to these before, right?
On a personal level, these are the generic, cookie-cutter responses that come into our minds when we reach 23:59 (or 11:59PM for the non-public safety folks) on December 31st. But, in all reality, how much time and thought do we put into these resolutions after the clock strikes midnight, or even in the weeks and months following?
Let’s step back and get away from our own personal goals and reflect on where we spend the better part of our adult lives: our jobs (or, ideally, careers). Particularly in the fire and EMS arena, 2021 wasn’t easy on us. Words like “struggle,” “hardship,” “exhaustion,” and “resignation” surrounded our industry—both in the back of our ambulances and fire engines, and all the way to the top of our bugle ranks. After the clock struck 12, we were all hoping that we weren’t entering “20-20, two.”
With a renewed sense of energy, it’s time to dive into the new year with some resolutions that are attainable, rather than just hopeful. After all, our struggles and hardships remain. We are all well aware of them—but, are those who use our services, fund our departments, and vote for our support aware of them, too?
Resolution 1: Focus on People
You may not be able to increase wages or throw daily pizza parties, but you can certainly show your genuine appreciation for the people helping your fire/EMS department succeed. Show them support by offering flexibility—not leniency. Show them support by offering empathy—not apathy. Show them support through understanding—not challenging. As a manager and as a leader, hopefully you go home each night with the ability to unwind after a tough day, but your staff may not have the same opportunity. They may not leave until the next day or end of their additional overtime shift. This added workload makes both their work life and family life more difficult. The least that we all can do is remember that our employees are people, too. Now, more than ever, is the perfect time to focus on our people.
Resolution 2: Focus on Communicating
You—as a fire chief, EMS director, manager, etc.—are aware of your department’s hardships… but what about your community? 2022 should not be the first time that your elected officials hear about your continued reimbursement struggles in order to balance your budget; but if it is, now is certainly better than a month before you have to close your doors. There are numerous platforms to utilize to communicate with your citizens (voters), elected officials, and legislators. Now is the time to dedicate effort into providing transparency, insight, and recognition surrounding your organization. Waiting until next year or until you find the right public information officer is going to be too late.
Resolution 3: Focus on the Future
So much of the past two years have been focused solely on “today” and “next week.” We’ve hardly had a chance to focus on three or five years from now. While three to five years may not seem tangible at the present time, that still doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be preparing for them. Many EMS agencies are on the upswing of rapidly increasing call volumes that return to pre-COVID numbers (and future trends); focusing on your roster for today won’t be enough as you try to build up for what you’ll likely need in the years to come. If you simply cannot fit this on your plate right now, it is okay. Ask for help! Involve others in your strategic, master, or operational planning so that you can focus on putting out the fires right in front of you.
Happy New Year!
With all of the gloom that seems to surround many aspects of our staffing crisis, reimbursement challenges, and PPE tiredness, it’s important to still welcome in the new year with some positives. You made it! You—as a manager, leader, and individual—have a chance to revamp, rebuild, re-energize, and re- just about anything else that comes to mind. Having said that, it’s important to remind (another “re-” word) yourself that each new year brings with it a time to focus on the future, where you’re going, and how far you’ve come.