Harnessing Data for Cultural Improvements in EMS

Harnessing Data for Cultural Improvements: Using your everyday data to identify, communicate, & advocate for your EMS team members

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Data and Mental Health Awareness

If your EMS system is like most, you have probably noticed the rise in attention being called to mental health awareness and the need for improvements to the EMS culture. Suicides are at an all-time high for Fire and EMS providers and many organizations are stepping up to the challenge of making real and impactful changes to the mental health and wellbeing of their team members. Peer support groups are amongst the most popular options for beginning this process. However, organizations can also tap into their everyday data to gain a better understanding of their providers’ mental health, and today we will show you how.

Information overload is not new to the EMS industry, and EMS administrators can easily find themselves overwhelmed by the amount of data they now have access to. With the advancements in technologies over the past decade, we now find ourselves in a data ocean where we once found ourselves in a data desert.

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Within this data ocean, we must recognize that with increased data comes a great responsibility to access it, harness it, and use it in a way that will be effective and useful to not only your organization and your patients but your providers as well. You can start this by separating your data into subjective and objective data types. We covered this topic in last week’s article which can be accessed on our main page.

Objective Data and Mental Health Awareness:

Using Call Times as an Indicator of Excessive Workload:

Many EMS systems capture call time information and utilize it for many essential purposes. This information is vital to the success and reputation of the organization, but it can also be used to delve into the providers’ state of fatigue. As administrators, you strive for destination times that are shorter so that there are more resources available to respond to your areas calls. When looking through this data, you can begin finding significant trends that will assist you in assessing your crews. Extended destination times should be noted and addressed by Supervisors with the crew members from potential fatigue and work-overload perspective. You may find that the provider is not coping well with the systems call volume, they may not be getting enough sleep, they may be having problems at home, or they may not be aware of their extended destination times. Regardless of the findings, these metrics are objective and can alert your team to providers who could potentially benefit from some critical resources.

Using Documentation as an Indicator of Stress:

Documentation is an integral part of the EMS organization and is often overlooked when speaking about the status of providers’ performance and mental state. Administrators can delve into various aspects of documentation data to gain a better understanding of their providers. Excessive chart returns can be an indicator of a provider who is not getting enough sleep or who is running so many calls they are unable to cope well with the stressors of documentation. Chart time completion can be an indicator that the crew member is either on task and performing well, is overwhelmed by their charting system and its requirements, or who is so busy they are unable to complete their documentation promptly.

Using Time and Attendance as an Indicator of Burnout:

Time and attendance are critical sets of data for EMS administrators when looking at the mental health and wellbeing of their providers. Team members who are struggling to be punctual or who are calling off for their shifts should be given extra attention. These trends can indicate problems at home, problems with their partners, stressors of their calls, or burnout. It is crucial when addressing these issues that the administrators look at it from a mental health standpoint and not merely a punitive attitude.

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Subjective Data and Mental Health Awareness

Using Documentation as an Indicator of Burnout:

The narrative portion of your documentation can be a handy set of data to give an insight into the mental well-being of the provider. Utilizing the narrative as a therapeutic outlet can be an indicator of burnout and is often the first way that a provider may indicate the stress of the job.

Using Crew Surveys as an Indicator of Stress:

Many organizations do not realize that they can easily capture continuous feedback from their providers about their mental wellbeing. While this area is slightly more time consuming for the administrators and supervisors, it is one of the most natural sets of subjective data to utilize when looking at the overall mental health and culture of an EMS organization. Regular short surveys, delivered weekly or monthly, can provide for a deep insight into the status of your providers’ mental states. These can be easily standardized and reported on, and over time it can help change the organizational culture into one that is aware, inclusive, and dedicated to their providers’ health.

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Don’t Only Focus on the Problem Children:

With each of these data sets, it is equally important to use this data to recognize employees who are performing well and give recognition when it is indicated. It is all too common in the EMS industry for administrators and supervisors to be overwhelmed with team members who are not performing adequately and spending their time addressing problems. Mental health awareness of providers includes acknowledging when team members are satisfied with their jobs as well as their lives, and this data can and should be harnessed for that as well.

Our goal with this article is to provide you with some of the most common challenges that EMS organizations face when seeking to develop embracive and rich high-performance cultures and to offer practical solutions that will help you overcome them. You now have the tools and techniques that will help you improve your organizations: data use, data collection, and mental well-being of your providers.

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