Recruitment and retention is one of the hottest topics in EMS today. Virtually every EMS organization is dealing with some challenge in this area. Common explanations are “Young people don’t want to volunteer” or “People are too busy these days”. These so called explanations are not supported by the research.
In 2005 the Virgina Department of Health & Office of EMS created a 37 page research report on the status of their EMS systems as well as recommendations. Their report, “Keeping The Best – How to Leverage Retention of Virginia’s EMS Professionals”, has industry survey based research, recommendations and highlights some retention principles.
The “Life-Cycle Retention Model” is particularly interesting, it very accurately outlines certain pitfalls (or retention barriers as the report details) that create a “revolving door”. When I use that term, it usually conveys an accurate description of an organization’s membership. So much effort is invested in bringing people into the organization and less effort is focused on keeping existing members from leaving.
The inadequate orientation or “on-boarding” process can take a very excited member and cause them to disappear within the first year. If members are not given clear steps & checklists to follow, they will become confused, frustrated and tend to leave or distance themselves from the organization. As Lisa Giruzzi says, “A confused mind does not act”, the more clarity you can bring to your on-boarding and orientation process and the sooner a member can feel that they are making a difference or feel connected, the more likely they are to stay.
When new members do complete their orientation and become actively involved contributing members, certain issues can quickly derail that person. So much of the leader’s effort is invested into bringing that member to a certain level of medical training, it’s usually the case that very little effort is put into giving people the distinctions of how to deal with interpersonal conflict. Many states do not have programs that give the leadership tools to help deal with those issues.
I love the saying, “To a hammer, everything is a nail”. We must give our leaders and our members (which are the future leaders), tools to deal with these interpersonal conflicts that are bound to come up in any organization. These are not unique to just EMS organizations, they typically plague many workplaces as well.
View the EMS Workforce Retention Research page for Virginia DOH EMS.