AMU Fire & EMS Original Public Safety

EMS Agencies and Changing Leadership at the National Level

By Allison G. S. Knox
Edge Contributor

When people think of the word “leadership,” they often contemplate the charismatic nature of an individual and how that leader inspires followers reach some fantastic, community-changing goal. But there are other aspects of leadership that are often forgotten because they occur behind the scenes. However, these aspects of leadership contribute considerably to organizational success.

For instance, leadership also involves well-organized administrations with clear goals and clearly defined hierarchical structures. Conversely, problems in these areas can easily contribute to the poor leadership of an organization.  

However, EMS agencies are still experiencing problems with budgets and staffing throughout the United States, despite the fact that there are numerous organizations and leaders trying to make a difference. So do we need to reconsider the organizational hierarchy of EMS leadership at the national level?

The EMS Hierarchy Obstructs National Leaders

Clearly, the hierarchy of an administration is an important piece of leadership. An individual can be only so charismatic; the organization that person represents needs to have a strong hierarchical structure to support all of its leaders. In addition, there must be firm policies and support mechanisms within that organization.

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EMS agencies are typically handled at the local level of government, even though there are national organizations that support local governments and local EMS agencies. This hierarchical structure, however, makes it difficult for leaders to manage EMS agencies at the national level.

When multiple organizations are involved in managing and leading EMS at the national level, a fracturing occurs and it is difficult for nationwide policy changes to take place. As a result, EMS leaders have problems gaining effective momentum for their initiatives because they often don’t have a strong administration that supports their efforts.

To fix U.S. EMS agencies and the myriad problems they have, it is first necessary to analyze what’s causing the problems and to discuss effective solutions. Working together to fix the ongoing problems of EMS agencies will be a helpful step forward in creating real change throughout the United States.

Allison G.S. Knox

Allison G. S. Knox teaches in the fire science and emergency management departments at the University. Focusing on emergency management and emergency medical services policy, she often writes and advocates about these issues. Allison works as an Intermittent Emergency Management Specialist in the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response. She also serves as the At-Large Director of the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians, Chancellor of the Southeast Region on the Board of Trustees with Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society in Social Sciences, chair of Pi Gamma Mu’s Leadership Development Program and Assistant Editor for the International Journal of Paramedicine. Prior to teaching, Allison worked for a member of Congress in Washington, D.C. and in a Level One trauma center emergency department. She is an emergency medical technician and holds five master’s degrees.

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