Nearly everyone makes New Year’s resolutions: save money, buy that new pair of shears, lose weight, etc. This year, why not set some professional goals instead?

Setting EMS professional goals is difficult. First what goals are right for me? Are they attainable? Do I have a backup plan if it doesn’t work out? And finally the perspective I see most in EMS, why bother?

The apathy I see in EMS is troublesome and promotes burnout. We see it every day, people leave the profession and although some say they will return, most never do.

According to one study, “Despite leaving EMS, many respondents reported that they would likely return to the profession. Key factors in the decision to leave were related to compensation, educational advancement, and job dissatisfaction.”

As managers, what can we do to help keep our top performers? Help them set goals! Goals must be attainable to engage the professional and entice them to continue pursuing their dreams.

I once heard of a credit card debt payment plan called the debt snowball. Its premise works well with setting goals. Works like this: you have 4 credit cards with balances of $2,000 to $10,000. Intuition tells you to start with the highest interest rate card first. But the human psyche wants instant gratification. Instead the debt snowball approach focuses on paying down the lowest balance card first, pay that off. Work on the next lowest balance, pay that off, and so on. This approach not only pays off the debt but also gives you the feeling of accomplishing your goals. Professional goals operate the same way, set smaller ones first, and continue to knock out each one as you build toward the larger goal and realize it. In fact, this learning management approach is widely known as “Chunking.”

As a manager, encourage your field providers to set EMS professional goals. Start small, a paramedic with no degree takes one class a semester at the local community college. As courses are completed an Associate’s degree is attained and then they can look towards a Bachelor’s degree. Or if a college degree seems out of reach, consider the Field Training Program offered by the service. Moving your motivated people up into management positions enhances retention, and the more training your field providers have the better care they can provide.

The best approach is to start small and work up from there. I did it. Paramedic in 1995 working three jobs with not much of a life. To overcome my own rat race, I started with a simple goal: get a nursing license. I took one class a semester always looking ahead to the next goal, completion of the next class. Before I knew it, I had completed my biggest goal of achieving a BSN. Of course, now I have educational fever with a new goal of completing my MBA. Naturally, I’m starting with small goals, registering and completing one class a semester.

So as you look ahead to 2018, what are your organization’s education plans for your associates? Take time right now to include an education plan for every provider in your organization. Then look at how education has affected your provider retention, recruitment and satisfaction as well as the overall level of care your organization provides.