Non-technical Skills for EMTs
If you’ve decided to take the leap to enroll in a state-approved EMS training course, then hopefully you’ve already taken a long, hard look at why you want to pursue a career in emergency medical services. Additionally, it’s critical that you take a look inside yourself to evaluate whether or not this is a profession that you’ll be successful with and thrive in. Most candidates who enroll for training and do decide to move forward with an EMS career or volunteer opportunity already have an understanding of what type of individual makes an effective EMT or Paramedic and know what life in the field looks like.
There are certain key personality characteristics that can make or break your career as an EMS professional. Many of these can be learned, however, some are just part of our internal DNA. In this article, we’re going to take a look at a few critical non-technical skills that aren’t taught in the classroom that can lead to your success in emergency medical services.
Perhaps the single greatest skill you can possess that will help you shine as an EMT that you aren’t going to be taught in a training program is teamwork. When you’re in the field, you’re going to be working with a wide range of other medical and emergency personnel and your ability to work well with new people under demanding circumstances is a key asset in being an effective EMS professional. The emergency medical technician may interact with hospital staff, firefighters, police officers, and responders from other agencies all in one call. Being able to work well with others while smoothly following protocol will serve you well.
Stress, Emotional Resilience, and a Strong Stomach
The nature of this career demands that you work well under pressure in a wide range of circumstances and environments. First and foremost, being able to remain focused and calm while seeing patients in extreme pain is a skill that cannot be prepared for until you’re working in the field. EMS professionals deal with individuals who are often in horrid circumstances and having the mental ability to conduct proper assessments and follow the right course of treatment while another human is in this state can often require time and experience.
Furthermore, another trait that is learned through the course of experience is the emotional resilience necessary to mentally separate from traumatic events. This doesn’t mean that a successful EMS professional is robotic and uncaring. However, as any emergency responder will tell you, it takes practice to leave work at work in this career. Professionals across all emergency professions will tell you that developing the ability to separate yourself from the events that occur during your shift takes time and experience. Even then, if you spend an entire career in this industry, there will be certain events that will stick with you for a lifetime. Knowing how to process the emotions that go along with repeated exposure to traumatic events will be another important skill.
Accepting the Consequences
With every job comes times that mistakes are made and situations which could have been handled in a more professional manner. If an accountant makes a rounding error in a calculation, financial reports may be incorrect. When an EMS professional makes a mistake, it can have grave consequences for the patient. This isn’t intended to scare you out of pursuing a career as an EMT or Paramedic. However, should you choose this path, you do need to accept the responsibility that comes with being an emergency responder. If the proper protocol is followed, you can be confident that the majority of the time, you are offering the best course of action for your patient. The successful EMS professional will be mindful of his or her duty and take that responsibility seriously.
Details and Organization
Another skill that is absolutely critical to your success is the ability to pay attention to details and stay organized, even under pressure. Being a detail-oriented individual is not a prerequisite to beginning a career in emergency medicine, but it is a key element in becoming an effective responder. There are stringent reporting requirements for patient assessment, treatment, and transport and you need to be able to accurately record many details while in the field.
Additionally, being able to maintain organization is critical to ensuring proper patient care. Whether you’re working as part of a transport team or a response unit, it is essential that you can keep supplies and equipment well-maintained and stocked to make sure that you have what you need to offer treatment for a wide range of calls.
Effective communication is a skill that also comes into play for the emergency medical services professional in a wide range of interactions. Most importantly, the ability to communicate with patients in a clear, concise manner while they are in a great deal of duress will help you keep your patient calm and aware of what you’re doing and why. Communicating with a patient who is experiencing trauma is not something you will have the opportunity to practice until you’re in the field, but over time you’ll find your communication skills adapting to the demands of the job.
Furthermore, these communication skills are essential when transporting patients to a receiving care facility. Being able to brief the staff members on the receiving end of a transport, such as the staff at an emergency medical department, will be a key component in the end to end care of the patient.
Taking a look through these skills, which ones do you currently have? Are there some that you need to develop? By understanding some of the factors that make an effective EMS professional that you won’t be taught in the classroom, you can begin preparing now and deciding whether or not this is the right career choice for you.