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Three Levels of EMS Officers
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Download the National EMS Officer Competencies document

Three important components of this document must be considered in order to take full advantage of all it has to offer; the three levels of EMS Officers; the Seven Pillars of EMS Officer Competencies; and the attributes, tasks and skills of an EMS officer.

Because this document was designed to be used with many EMS delivery models, it was important to first establish a clear and universal set of EMS Officer levels. Since so many services in the United States refer to their levels of management with different titles (e.g., Director versus Chief, Supervisor versus Lieutenant), it was determined that the competencies would be based on three levels that fit regardless of specific title and are based on the roles and functions of the EMS officer in question.

The EMS Agenda for the Future helped to define and outline these three levels. The three levels are defined as the Supervising EMS Officer, the Managing EMS Officer and the Executive EMS Officer. We feel that the majority of EMS officers from across the United States can identify their position among these three categories.

The Supervising EMS Officers are the front line supervisors. Often, agencies refer to them as “Field Supervisor” or “EMS Lieutenant”. Their primary role is to provide first-line supervision to EMTs and paramedics in the field. Typically, they are responsible for daily schedules, assignment of personnel to units, assuring adequate resources and response to significant emergencies, and serving as initial incident commander for smaller emergencies. They work within daily operations in the field and/or at station in order to ensure daily operations are running smoothly and provide primary supervisory support to staff for field operations.

The Managing EMS Officers are the middle managers. Often, agencies refer to them as “EMS Coordinator”, “Operations Manager”, “EMS Captain” or “Division Chief”. The Managing EMS Officer is responsible for managing major components of EMS organizations, serves division or unit heads, or acts as a staff specialist responsible for administrative and clinical functions in EMS organizations. These officers plan, direct, and coordinate the work of subordinate supervising EMS officers, EMTs and paramedics, and non-credentialed personnel. Managing EMS Officers typically respond to major incidents involving mass casualties and multi-agency operations, and operate at those incidents as part of a multi-agency unified command structure. Managing EMS Officers also perform highly specialized tasks such as developing and managing educational programs, or developing and implementing deployment plans and system status management. They are involved in administration, finance, human resources, clinical affairs and quality management. Their primary role is to work to ensure daily operations have all the resources needed in order to run smoothly. They often function primarily from an office but still actively participate in field operations as needed and at large scale events.

The Executive EMS Officers are the senior management team members. Often, agencies refer to them as “Deputy Chief”, “Director” or “Chief of Department”. The executive EMS Officer is responsible for providing general management and top-level leadership to an EMS organization. They report to and manage a Board of Directors in the private and not-for-profit EMS sectors, or serve as department heads in governmental EMS agencies. In addition to executive-level leadership, managerial, and administrative duties, this officer typically responds to major incidents involving mass casualties and multi-agency operations, and operates at those incidents as part of a multi-agency unified command structure in a command or general staff position. Their primary role is to ensure overall operational performance and that the organization is meeting goals and expectations. They provide support to other EMS officers and work not only to ensure today’s operations are meeting expectations but also to prepare for changes and to meet expectations for the agency into the future.

Download the National EMS Officer Competencies document