Identifying and cultivating partnerships and developing effective collaboratives are essential EMSC manager responsibilities. Managers must identify partners who have diverse experiences and perspectives, who are knowledgeable, and who have a mutual interest in improving access to quality emergency care for children. In general, a good partner is one who has visibility, authority, and influence, and is capable of affecting change. In many situations, partnerships are strategically designed and orchestrated to address an identified need or to improve support of a key group of stakeholders.
Check out this infographic on how EMSC partners can help you.
One of the most important strategic partnerships is between the program manager and their Family Advisory Network (FAN) representative. No one has more at stake in the assurance of high-quality pediatric emergency medical care than the parents and family members of children whose lives, at any given time, may be placed into the hands of their local EMS provider. FAN represents the consumer’s perspective, and the involvement of local community-based family representatives in EMSC will help to integrate the practice of family-centered care into the EMS system. SP managers should involve FAN representatives in all aspects of the SP program and seek out ways to tap into their passion, unique skill sets, and grass-roots community networks to help guide and implement EMSC priorities.
Another vital partnership is the one between the SP program and their EMSC Advisory Committee or Council. While having an advisory committee that meets regularly is a requirement of SP grant funding, building a strong and effective advisory committee that will help move mountains should be a leadership priority. The EMSC Program specifies that the committee or council include the following eight core members strategically designed to provide vital input from key disciplines:
- A nurse with emergency pediatric experience
- A physician with pediatric training (pediatrician or pediatric surgeon)
- An emergency physician
- A currently practicing emergency medical technician (EMT)—basic or paramedic
- An EMS state agency representative (state medical director, administrator)
- The EMSC SP director
- The EMSC SP manager
- A family representative
The selection of the individuals to fill these seats should be carefully deliberated. Partnering organizations and key stakeholder groups are often the first places to look, but it is also important to consider other important concerns, such as cultural and linguistic diversity, youth participation, and geographical or regional representation. Members must also be willing and able to commit to meetings and to provide additional support to the program between meetings as determined by the committee.
In addition to the required positions, others may be added. Factors to consider are costs involved in gathering the group for meetings, ability to manage and engage the group, and difficulty in achieving a quorum. However, positions may also be strategically created to cover specific program needs or to shore partnership relations. For example, a key partnership with the state hospital association may be strengthened by inviting a representative of that organization to participate in the advisory committee. Furthermore, it may not be wise to “load” the committee with pediatric champions to the exclusion of other stakeholders, such as professional EMS or hospital management association leaders who may not always agree that EMSC priorities are in the best interest of their constituents. Effective managers have learned to include adversaries in the process to develop trust and foster collaboration. This is a prime example of strategic leadership.
The old expression “It is not what you know but who you know” is only part of the story. When attempting to affect statewide change in pediatric emergency care, it comes down to not only who you know, but who they know as well and if you can effectively impart what you know on them. This is networking. Everyone works within multiple networks at home, at work, and in their community. A successful program manager understands the value of networks and actively seeks to take advantage of them. An important element of strategic partnering is to be able to look at the big picture and identify partners within a network of networks. For example, an emergency physician on an advisory committee would have more reach if he or she is active in one or more professional associations, such as the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) or the National Association of EMS Physicians (NAEMSP), is affiliated with the state chapters of those organizations, and is involved in state or regional committees or coalitions.
On the other side of the coin is who knows you. It is impossible for one individual to get face time with every potential stakeholder across multiple organizations, and by nature people are reluctant to trust someone they do not know. This makes it difficult to: get the message out about the SP program goals and objectives; get a foot in the door for potential partnerships; or get responses to a request to complete a survey or questionnaire for EMSC data collection. Strategically, partnering helps by having recognized leaders in multiple organizations lend the SP manager credibility and support within their organizations and networks and helps open doors to otherwise inaccessible groups.