Moving from a Buddy to a Boss: Advancing Your EMC Career

You’ve received the white shirt and the shiny gold badge. Congratulations! You’ve moved from a field provider to field supervisor.  

Feeling much like you did when you graduated from high school, you have greatadvance-paramedic-career-boss plans to make your EMS agency the best in the state! Your friends congratulate you and tell you that now you can tell the “suits” what it’s like for the medic on the street.

Life is good…no even great! That is until you get your first call of an employee complaint on your former partner. Let's call him "Jeff." Suddenly you get a queasy feeling in the pit of your stomach. How could he have done something so boneheaded? Didn’t he realize that you would have to deal with this? You realize that you will have to confront Jeff about this and you do not look forward to the conflict.
Supervisors need to walk that tight rope of being a buddy and a boss. In most situations when you try to do both, you fail miserably. If you hang out with your subordinates, you run the risk of losing their respect for you as a leader. If you don’t make yourself available at all you get labeled as a jerk and too good for the “common medic”.  

Being too friendly can cause irreparable harm to your organization as well as to the working relationship that you might have with your crews. Ultimately, you need to work towards having a professional friendship with those you lead and this is not an easy task to accomplish especially early in your career as a supervisor.

Much of this transition must occur in your own head by realizing that things have indeed changed. You are no longer a peer, but a representative of the organization with a broader viewpoint towards accomplishing the goals of your agency. In the weeks and months after your promotion, finding this balance will be imperative but very difficult as you have probably spent years working with the same people that you are now managing. The down side of being a buddy (and it’s a big one) is that you can end up with that very problem that you are trying so hard to avoid, that of having employees who are unhappy with you.

If you don’t receive the respect that you feel that you deserve, do a gut check and see if you have earned it first. Respect is always earned, a white shirt and gold badge does not equate respect. Behave as though you deserve their respect and, in time, you will receive it.  
The vast majority of EMS responders want to become better at what they do. To do that they will need effective supervisors to mentor and guide them as well as discipline them when they get off the correct path. Be confident in what you expect from your crews and almost always they will deliver.  

Published on February 11, 2016