NEMSMA Member Spotlight - Lee County Department of Public Safety

By Anthony G. Balog, NRP Captain, Gloucester Volunteer Fire and Rescue Squad
NEMSMA Member
 
Interview by Ryan Greenberg
NEMSMA Board Secretary
 
This month’s NEMSMA Member spotlight is with Benjamin Abes, EMS Chief and Deputy Public Safety Director for Lee County Department of Public Safety. Chief Abes took the time to talk to NEMSMA Secretary Ryan Greenberg and share some of his thoughts and ideas. 
 
 
Lee County Department of Public Safety
Size of Department: 405
Annual Request for Service:  82,000
Annual Transports: 56,000
 
Tell us a little bit about your agency (type of agency, call volume, location, number of staff) 
 
We are the Department of Public Safety here in Lee County, located in Southwest Florida. The Division of Emergency Medical Services, which is formally known as Lee County EMS, is just one component of a number of programs within the Department of Public Safety. Lee County is home to approximately 720,000 permanent residents, but we welcome about 4 million visitors to our community every year. So there is a very vibrant and robust community, and there are a lot of people coming and joining the Southwest Florida lifestyle and enjoying the weather, especially this time of year when it is starting snow up north. 
 
So I imagine that it is a little bit of a challenge sometimes that the amount of seasonal change and population. I know it’s not one of our questions on our spotlight, but how do you handle that? Such a spike in population and change?
 
Well it’s one of the issues that we have to manage very carefully. We have our permanent residents, which of course, have this underlying, constant level of activity and volume within the system.  But then, of course, this time of year when it starts to get colder up north and we get a lot more seasonal residents that come down  Whether they come down for 6 months or come down for a number of weeks at a time, those residents cause additional volume into the system and our system is designed to handle the underlying permanent resident volume as well as the surge in our tourist season. Those 4 million visitors are really spread throughout the year, but we do see a pretty significant increase, with 20-30% of our volume during that tourist season. 
 
How long has your agency been a member with NEMSMA and what made them decide to join? 
 
I joined NEMSMA 3 years ago. That was one of the first things I was encouraged to do when in I entered my position as the Operations Chief. It was a really interesting opportunity to be able to learn more about what was going on in EMS nationally. I think that is one of the things I enjoy the most. I am engaged in and involved in a lot of state organizations and organizations at a regional level. But to hear the feedback, hear the news going on at a national level, is really important, especially for EMS Leaders across the country.
 
What do you think is something different and/or innovative about that Lee County Public Safety Division that helps you lead as an agency, and help you succeed into the future?
 
I think a great example is what brings you down here to Southwest Florida today;: our Leadership Academy.  Over the last 3 years, we developed a leadership academy that is run in-house. It is a week long program, 40 hours, to help build leadership skills within the employees in our work force. We take EMS employees that work on ambulances, employees in our other Public Safety Divisions, which include Communications, Emergency Management, E-911 Network, Information Technology, and other support Divisions. Also some of our external partners send candidates to the academy as well.  I believe this is an important step to building the succession necessary to keep the organization going into the future.  We hold the class twice a year, and as soon as it’s over, we do a hot wash afterwards and it changes and gets some tweaks as we get student feedback. We now believe it’s really refined. We have received really good feedback and results from the employees that go through the class. 
 
What is one thing your agency is most proud of?
 
I think as far as EMS goes, I am definitely most proud of our personnel. Whether it’s our seasonal influx, or the challenges with the hospital systems and services, or changes in our patient population, our personnel are not just very flexible, but they are exceptionally skilled and very good at what they do. That’s one of the things that I think I am really proudest of is that whether its providing medical care, or simply providing that additional ear that a patient might need to provide some comfort on the way to the hospital or on scene, our people really hit it out of the park each and every day. We are really proud of that. 
 
What makes your leadership team work well together? 
 
Our leadership team has really been in flux the past couple of years, with some people retiring, some people coming and going, and one of things that I think has been key to keeping that continuity has been trust. When we go into simple decisions and discussions, to the most complex decisions and discussions, everybody around the table knows that there is mutual trust that extends amongst every division, amongst every office within the Division of Emergency Medical Services we all trust each other. We all know that if we don’t necessarily agree with something that we are open to speak our minds, and we encourage it because we want to hear what everybody thinks and foresees so that we can make better decisions.  I think it is really important to establish and grow that trust, and that’s not something you walk in and say “Hey we all trust each other, were good.” That is built over weeks, months and years of getting that team together and having those open discussions. 
 
So when you talk about trust, you’re not only talking about something where “I made the decision, you’re going to trust I made the best decision,” but it’s even trust to speak freely and bring forth an idea that maybe even the Chief is not comfortable with.
 
Oh, absolutely. In fact, I hope that if I am bringing an idea forward that it is getting just as much critical thought and analysis as anyone else who brings a thought or idea to the table. I think that’s one of things we really enjoy within our leadership team; that open dialogue and that trust when we get into a room together to discuss a topic or an issue that “Hey it’s no holds barred.” Let us know how you feel and how you think. Let’s analyze these things to make a good decision.  
 
What would your words of encouragement and/or advise be to other agencies to help them keep their agency and our profession moving forward?
 
I think one of things we have really tried to focus on in the last 12 to 18 month is knowing our business. We do a lot of different things, but at the end of the day were an EMS Agency, we take care of patients. We do all kinds of cool things. We have a bike team, an honor guard, air medical, we have all of these different groups and subsets, different things that we reach out to do. At the end of the day it comes down to the next tone that goes off, that next patient interaction and making sure that not only the entire system is ready, but that individual provider, whether its three in the afternoon or three in the morning, that they are going to be ready to go out there and engage that patient and do the right thing medically but also through whatever other needs might arise during that patient contact. I think that’s not necessarily easy to do when you have a lot of competing priorities and things that you have to work through, but knowing your business and focusing on your core competences to say “these are the things we are going to just be really, really good at”.  
 
What is an idea or concept that you feel would be valuable for other leaders to know in order to help them succeed as an EMS leader?  
 
Well I’m new in my position, I’ve been in my position for four months now. One of the things I have learned is that, while it is good for me to think and consider things, I have to get a lot of voices around me. Good voices, again, going back to that trust. It’s very easy for me to sit at a desk and make decisions, but it’s much better if I go out and get feedback on those decisions, if I include the entire team on decisions. I find that not only do we get buy in on that, but also it refines that decision and it creates a dialogue that is not only beneficial to that decision, but its beneficial to the team environment. It’s very easy, I think, as a newer leader getting in to an organization, a large organization where you have a lot of things on your plate and you just shut the door and start working on issues and working on things, it’s a lot harder than to open that door, get a bunch of people in to a room and discuss stuff, but it’s really important to have a chorus of voices around you to help you weigh different decisions, options and figure out the best way to get things done. 
 
What would you say to those who are considering signing up or becoming more active in NEMSMA? 
 
I would strongly encourage it. Like I said earlier, we have a great regional conversation amongst local chiefs and organizations and we have very robust state EMS committees, the advisory council. The one thing that I really enjoy from NEMSMA is that you do get that national picture. You get to hear a lot about what agencies outside of your local area are doing. It’s really cool not just to hear what other agencies in Florida are doing, but also what an agency in New York, New Jersey, or Minnesota, or California might be doing.  All these different agencies, share their news, share their information through NEMSMA and you get to get a much better picture of what some of the most innovative agencies in the country are doing. I think that’s really helpful. The second part of that would be the advocacy. To be part of an organization that helps advocate for EMS providers is very, very important. That’s another important consideration when you thing about joining NEMSMA. 
 
Thanks to Chief Abes for taking time out of his schedule to share with the members of NEMSMA about himself and his agency and we wish him continued success in his new position. For more information on Lee County Division of EMS and the Department of Public Safety, go to www.leegov.com look for the Department of Public Safety under the department listing.  There you can find Job postings, information on the organization as well as the Lee County Medical Protocols.
 
Click below to watch the Lee County spotlight video.
Lee County Spotlight
 

At EMS Today in February: NEMSMA Supervisor Credentialing Exam - Prep Course

Participants for the prep course should register at: https://nemsma.candidatecare.jobs/job_positions/preview/14047

This workshop will review the 7 Pillars of EMS Officer Competency knowledge
areas in a scenario-based format, addressing the supervisory level in each pillar. It will also include a review of the Supervising Officer’s written examination format and style, providing a review of how to interpret the questions and the critical thinking process to use in selecting answers. Attendees will be eligible to sit for the credentialing exam at the conclusion of the session if they are otherwise qualified and have submitted an accepted application in advance. Completion of the Prep Course is NOT required to qualify for taking the test. However, other prerequisites for the test do applyand are detailed on the NEMSMA web site.

For additional questions contact NEMSMA at 888-424-9850.

Prep Course fee is $125 for NEMSMA members/ $175 for non-members


NEMSMA Supervisor Credentialing Exam

Registration details can be found at

https://nemsma.candidatecare.jobs/job_positions/preview/14047

The Supervising EMS Officer Examination is the first level of EMS Officer credentialing offered by the National EMS Management Association with a focus on front line supervision skills. The exam consists of 100 questions testing general supervisory knowledge and EMS specific knowledge presented in a multiple choice and scenario-based format. Test elements are based on the Seven Pillars of EMS Officer Competencies that can be found along with testing prerequisites at www.NEMSMA.org. Prior to testing an online application and payment is required that can be found at: 

https://nemsma.candidatecare.jobs/job_positions/preview/14047

Optional prep course is also available the same day. Testing candidates will be required to provide their own wi-fi capable laptop in order to complete the exam.

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NEMSMA Member Spotlight - Brian LaCroix, Allina Health EMS

This month’s NEMSMA Member Spotlight is Brian LaCroix from Allina Health EMS.  Brian is a member of the NEMSMA Board of Directors, and will be the incoming President-Elect.  Brian took the time to talk with NEMSMA Secretary Ryan Greenberg to share with our membership about himself and his organization.  
 
 
Can you introduce yourself to our members, and a little bit about your agency?
I lead the organization, Allina Health EMS.  We are a non-profit in Minnesota.  We are a traditional 911 EMS agency.  We also provide other Mobile Integrated Health services and other services related to paramedicine.  We have a staff of about 600, and we had last year approximately 112,000 patient interactions.  We serve urban areas like the International Airport and the Mall of America, and we serve rural areas, where I joke there are more deer than people.  
 
How long has Allina been a member of NEMSMA?
So, we’ve been involved about 8 years.  I was first introduced to NEMSMA through the list serve, which I thought was just a fantastic resource where friends that I knew in the EMS industry from other parts of the country introduced me to a place where I can go and get information, and advice, and ask questions of people from all over the country who were having the same issues that I had.  And, that list serve, I think, is still one of the valuable member benefits.
 
What is something different and/or innovative about your agency?
Every year we develop a series of goals, under what we call pillars, and they are related to people, care, service, growth, financial, health, and community.  They are all equally important, so our philosophy is you need to have this balanced approach to serve your community in the best way you can.  
 
What is the one thing your agency is most proud of?
Everybody has a culture, whether you deliberately try to have a culture or not.  All organizations have a culture, whether it is a paramedicine organization, or a grocery store.  What we really deliberately try and do in our organization is create, and cultivate, a culture that is about caring.  That sounds a little corny, but we have landed on a mantra about caring for our patients, caring for our communities, and caring for each other.  We have a chaplain on staff, and that chaplain’s role is not to do necessarily scene response, but to do what we call self-care with our staff.  We have high expectations of our staff.  Here is the flip side to that;.  We got your back.  People that come and do that work for us, and serve our communities, and serve each other, we are there for them.  We do our best in terms of providing a good living for them, providing strong equipment, support both inside work, their outside personal lives are not our business, but you’d be surprised how many people invite you into their personal lives when they are having challenges, and we provide resources, if they ask.  Our chaplain sums it up in a bumper sticker of “high expectations, high support”.  
 
What makes your leadership team work well together?
My senior leadership team has been together for a long time. We know that we need to lean on each other and be part of the solution for the whole system.  We welcome contrary points of views.  We have ground rules about being respectful when we have those tough conversations, but we aren’t afraid to say that’s a wrong direction and here’s why and let’s talk through it.  
 
What are some words of encouragement you would give to another agency who isare trying to achieve some of the things you have achieved?
One of the things I talk about is our patients, to get their input on things, to lay down on the cot and look to see if there is blood on the ceiling.  Our mission is to serve them, and they often get left out of the equation.  
 
What idea or concept do you feel would be valuable for new leaders to know in order to help them succeed?
I would give them a phrase that “none of us is smarter than all of us”.  It’s a reminder every day to keep an open mind., Yyou don’t have all the answers,. Ddiversity of thought and direction makes us all better.  
What recommendation would you give to a leadership team?
In my experience, it’s not hiding the conflict.  There needs to be procedures in place to figure out how to have healthy communication, how to be respectful about it, how to listen to a contrary point of view, and at the end of the day come to some sort of consensus.   Focus on the issues that are truly important.  
 
What would you say to people about the value of NEMSMA? 
I go back to the very first thing that peaked my interest, which is the list serve.  It is one of those things that if you have a problem, you are not alone.  You can put a question out there and get answers back. NEMSMA inspires leaders to serve our community.  The group advances legislative and regulatory issues.  
 
We thank Brian for taking time to share with our members about himself, his organization, and wish him the best in his new leadership position. If you would like to know more about Allina Health EMS you can visit their website at www.allinahealth.org and you will find the EMS section under the Medical Services tab.  
 

NEMSMA BOARD ELECTION RESULTS ANNOUNCEMENT

The 2016 election for the 2017 NEMSMA Board of Directors has concluded. This year we had the highest member participation in recent history. Thank you to all of those who ran and to everyone who participated by casting their votes.

NEMSMA held its annual election to fill the seats of Board members whose terms are ending. This year there were ten candidates running for five seats; three seats are for two-year terms and two are for one-year terms. The three candidates with the highest number of votes were elected to two-year terms. The five new members of the Board of Directors will take office on January 1, 2017.

I am pleased to announce the results.

  • Ryan Greenberg - NEMSMA Board Member and Board Secretary - Executive Director - MedSpan Integrated Health (incumbent) 2 year term
  • Troy Hagen - NEMSMA Board Member and Immediate Past President - CEO - Care Ambulance (incumbent) 2 year term
  • Allison Bloom - NEMSMA Board Member - Attorney - Law Office of Allison J. Bloom (incumbent) 2 year term
  • Pat Songer - NEMSMA Board Member - Administrative Director - Humboldt General Hospital (incumbent) 1 year term
  • Nick Nudell, MS NRP - Chief Data Officer - Paramedic Foundation 1 year term

We congratulate those elected to the Board and extend our appreciation to all candidates for their willingness to seek a Board seat and offer to participate in the governance of our association.

NEMSMA 2017 Board of Directors

  • Vince Robbins – President
  • Brian LaCroix – President Elect
  • Mike Touchstone – Immediate Past President
  • Sean Caffrey
  • Ryan Greenberg
  • Troy Hagen
  • Allison Bloom
  • Pat Songer
  • Brooke Macias
  • Nick Nudell

NEMSMA NEEDS MID-LEVEL MANAGER VOLUNTEERS TO PARTICIPATE IN EXAM DEVELOPMENT

NEMSMA’s American College of Paramedicine Executives (ACPE) in conjunction with our partners at Avesta Systems are actively developing our next examination for Managing EMS Officers. This examination is scheduled to be rolled out in the Summer of 2017. An essential part of the exam development and validation process is a job analysis survey that will be used to ensure the exam appropriately matches the work done by EMS managers on a daily basis. By EMS managers we mean individuals who serve in roles, usually described as mid-level or middle management, that lie between the levels of front line supervisor and executive leadership. Typical job titles and/or ranks in such roles may include but are not limited to: battalion chief, assistant chief, shift commander, captain, major, training officer, training director, communications manager, human resources officer, quality improvement manager, finance director, information technology manager, fleet manager, logistics officer, etc.

If you, or individuals in your organization are currently serving as EMS managers in these types of roles, we could use your help! If you would be willing to participate in a comprehensive online survey about your job duties, please use the link below to sign up for this important project. After signing up your information will be forwarded to Avesta for review and you will be notified regarding further survey details.

In order to participate, click the link below or copy / paste the link into your browser.

http://research.zarca.com/k/SsUTWRsTYRsPsPsP


Thank you for your interest in shaping the future credentialing of EMS Officers!

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