POLL: Dispatchers – Supervisors Or Not Supervisors?

Today I’m crowdsourcing answers and opnions to this question:

Dispatchers – can what they do be considered supervising and therefore would you consider them a level of supervision over field staff? If so wouldn’t you then consider them Supervisors through job function although not through title?

Can Dispatchers, through job function and not by title, be considered Supervisors?


Yes, the function of a Dispatcher is to provide direction, guidance, and oversight to field staff

No, the function of the Dispatcher is simply to provide call information to units and funnel their needs to the appropriate resources, therefore there is no oversight

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My Case As To Why They Can Be Considered Supervisors

I argue that, although their title is Dispatcher, the role they play is more of a first line of oversight and/or supervision. I argue this mostly with people from outside the Emergency Medical Services (such as the fine folks in Human Resources) who do not actually understand what the function of a Dispatcher is. Allow me to explain why I see it that way by starting with the definition of Supervisor:

Supervisor___Define_Supervisor_at_Dictionary_com

The definition of a Supervisor clearly defines them as someone who supervises workers or the work done by others. Now let’s look at the actual definition of supervises:

define_supervises_-_Google_Search

The word supervises clearly indicates that the activity includes directing workers to complete a task (ie assigning them a call), directs the work of someone (ie sending a unit to post or reassigning the unit), and the synonyms include both oversee and monitor (ie signal updates).

So since I’m on a definition kick, let’s look at the actual definition of Dispatcher:

Dispatcher___Define_Dispatcher_at_Dictionary_com

The second definition specifically uses the work “oversees” which is a synonym for the definition of supervise and therefore, in essence and job function but not in title, I would argue that a dispatcher is a Supervisor figure to field staff. Keep in mind that they are for all intense purposes the command and control element for the resources at work. Although they are doing it from a remote location

Please let me know if you agree or disagree (and why) through voting above and/or in the comments below…

(…To Be Continued…)

Spare Some Change?

This post can also be found at MedicSBK.com

With EMS Today right around the corner, I got thinking the other day about the past conferences that I have been to.  This year’s gathering in Washington, DC marks my ninth consecutive major conference that I have attended.  I’ve been to Baltimore three times, this will be my second appearance in DC, Las Vegas twice, New Orleans, and the first conference that I attended back in 2010 in Dallas.

That year in Dallas, Had quite the opportunity drop in my lap.  One morning, I had the chance to sit down and interview a person who I very quickly came to admire because of his involvement in the National EMS Management Association, Skip Kirkwood, who at the time was the chief of Wake County EMS.  Even before I had a chance to meet Skip the words “Well, in Wake County. . . ” were a constantly used phrase in my vocabulary.  I admired the changes and strides that they had made in their quest to provide the best possible patient care for the residents of Wake County.

More than that though, I admired Skip’s approaches to problem solving.  For years to follow, presentations that I have given have involved little pearls of wisdom that I have obtained at the hands (and fingers) of skip over the years from e-mails and posts that I have received from him, so while I had a long standing admiration for Skip, having the chance to sit down with him as a captive audience and pick his brain was quite the opportunity for me.

One thing that stood out to me was how he approached change and progression in Wake County.  As I read about his service it was clear that things always seemed to progress quickly there.  Skip’s answer to me was that he always promotes an environment that is comfortable and welcoming to change.  He wanted his people to be ready to walk in one day and find a new piece of equipment, or a new policy change.  By doing this, when major changes were rolled out his staff was more welcoming and willing to adapt.

I cannot tell you how much that stuck with me.  Far too often, I have seen paramedics, EMTs and even services becoming complacent with the “norm.”  They get themselves into a rut, and allow life to just carry on day to day in their same routine.  Response becomes automatic, treatment becomes automatic, and then when someone suggests doing something differently there is significant pushback.  I have seen it through my own experiences as a supervisor, I have seen it as a street medic both from myself and from my peers, and I have seen it through my friends in other services.  It is a consistent trend.

It goes without saying, and has been stated repeatedly in the virtual pages of my blog that we are at a major crossroads in EMS.  The care that we provide is slowly moving away from simply providing emergency care, and we are evolving into what MedStar and Matt Zavadsky are calling “Mobile Healthcare.”  We are being asked to relearn the EMS alphabet, and but “C” before “A” and “B” all in the name of saving more lives.  It’s change, and for most people who have adapted their own way of doing things and their own rhythm, it’s is terrifying.

Every service and every manager has their own challenges for how to promote and allow their people to become comfortable with change.  For example, one of the major ones that I dealt with at my former employer was having a diverse work force that was around 40% part-time and per-diem employees.  Getting the word out to these people and getting them proficient to the point where they could just seamlessly transition into the workforce was difficult.  Dispatchers had to be convinced that no, that crew is not dogging it at the hospital, they’re learning our new computer system.  Managers had to learn that we might have to put an extra truck or two on to let our people adapt, and give them a chance to apply what they learned in a classroom (or on a memo) hands on.

The important thing to remember though is that while fresh ideas can be born at any level from the newest EMT right on up to the medical director, the key to how that new treatment or policy is received is up to the leadership team.  Implementations need to be methodical.  No one should ever say, “Just do it, make the change.”  Memos should not be rushed out.  Rollouts on major changes need timelines.  With every new policy fails, is not followed, or is simply imposed with an iron fist on a work force, you can expect the next one to be that much more difficult.  While I am certainly guilty of contributing to the problem as well as the solution, all that I can do is learn from my mistakes, and more importantly, embrace Chief Kirkwood’s ideas and values.

Promote the change, embrace the change, and be a champion of the evolution of EMS.

To read my full interview with Chief Skip Kirkwood, check out Part 1 and Part 2 at www.medicsbk.com.

Our Greatest Asset

This week, I wanted to resurrect a piece that I wrote a couple of years ago.  For anyone interested in being a manager or a leader, there is nothing more important than knowing the people who work for you. . .  In the past, I have written posts … [Continue reading]

Extending the Career Ladder

I remember the first time that I watched Mother, Juggs, and Speed and saw Larry Hagman walk into F&B Ambulance for the first time, and put his resume on the table.  After barely even looking at his resume, Mr. Fishbine hired him, with barely an … [Continue reading]

The Kids are Alright – A Follow Up

leadership text in 3d blue glass cubes, business concept

Last week, we talked about the problems and challenges presented to us by the young work force that some EMS leaders are having a difficult time adapting to dealing with.  I have been giving a great deal of thought to what the solution to this … [Continue reading]

The Kids are Alright

Leadership Concept

One of the unfortunate things about having a new job is I fall at the bottom of the list when it comes to using vacation time.  With the days off that I could get I was forced to miss the last day of EMS Expo in Las Vegas this year.  While following … [Continue reading]

The Importance Of A Smile

Blackboard / chalkboard texture. Empty blank black chalkboard wi

Smiles. So simple and yet so very powerful. They alone have the ability to break through indifference, warm the emotions of others around, and when used at the right time can influence what others will do. Smiles are relatively cheap in comparison … [Continue reading]

What Drives People To EMS?

Great Career Ahead

What motivates someone to come into EMS? After unscientifically scouring my notes from hundreds of interviews with prospective new employees, the vast majority who are looking for their first job in EMS, here are the top 3 answers provided: I … [Continue reading]

5 Ideas For Celebrating Victories

Thumb up with good job written on a blackboard

No matter how small we may think it is, we need to celebrate our victories. Here are 5 ideas for recognizing and commencing that celebration with your providers: A Written Letter of Commendation from "The Boss" - Telling someone they did a good … [Continue reading]

The “B” Word

Knockout

There is one thing that the Fire Service has universally created, fostered, and grown throughout its history that I truly admire, respect, and wish we could bring to the Emergency Medical Services. Brotherhood. You hear the word come out quite … [Continue reading]