We all want to strive to be our best personal selves. This normally takes hard work, dedication, and the ability to grow when you face adversity. These concepts are the same in every agency. Improving is vital for an agency to thrive in a constantly evolving time, but it is easy to become complacent when everything seems to be working fine. Whether it be getting more information to a responder in a timely manner, responding to a call quicker, or adapting your current internal processes, there is always room for improvement. What can an agency do to improves its standard of care and combat complacency?
First, an agency must set standards based on reasonable expectations for their staff and agency. Yet, not every agency has access to the same resources, so why would their standards and expectations be the same as every other agency in the country? The agency needs to outline expectations, including levels of training, call pick up times, dispatch times, and incident location confirmation speed, based on resources such as staffing levels and resources for dispatch. Then a plan needs to be put in place to review and assess how the processes are working and if objectives are being met. If their dispatch time is meeting expectations, they can keep that as their gold standard. If they need to improve on those times, they can make the necessary adjustments.
Most agencies understand the importance of consistent Quality Assurance within their call centers. Yet some have seen QA being used as a means to scold or reprimand the individual. As a result, this process backfires and lowers morale within the workplace and even stifle growth at an agency. Instead, when using Quality Assurance as a tool to review processes to access an agency’s effectiveness, it empowers staff to focus on the agency’s process rather than the individual. This type of Quality Assurance can even fuel an agency’s growth by making the staff feel as if they are supported. Performance can be improved; morale can be increased; training and processes can be adjusted, and changes can be made before a catastrophic incident occurs.
It also means that when a telecommunicator does not meet the expectations set by the agency, the agency processes should be assessed and a determination made as to whether it needs to be adjusted. In addition, there is a training opportunity for the individual and even the staff to learn from what did not go as planned and to be prepared for the next time the situation occurs. This is an opportunity to highlighting the good but also fix the errors.
Feedback is provided in a positive, constructive tone that instead guides and teaches that individual a better way to handle a future situation. This can be done through group exercise and one-on-one role-playing. It takes effort and time but by making that time, the individual will feel that the staff cares about them and wants them to do well. This will harbor a productive workplace where the staff will feel that they are being helped instead of watched.
Medical Director J. Benji Marfori, MD, FACEP, highlights this fact by stating, “You cannot improve outcomes without measuring performance. When variances occur, we must ask ourselves if the problem is with the person or the process. We cannot expect our personnel to achieve goals for which we have not adequately trained them. Quality Assurance must be viewed as process improvement rather than disciplinary action. We all have room to improve. The system needs to constantly evolve to include new threats and conditions.” This is the mindset that allowed this agency to thrive and improve their processes while also improving staff morale.
Above all else, transparency is key when improving internal processes through Quality Assurance. The entire staff needs a clear understanding of what is expected of them, with drawn-out criteria and a timeline to meet. Change is something that is hard for any person to deal with, especially when doing the same things for a long time. Without a clear understanding of why or how things are changing within the agency, the staff will become disillusioned and frustrated because they will not understand how this will help them.
This is something that will take constant work and adjustments, and it is not something that can be done in a day. With consistency and support, the QA process will become a normal activity for the agency, and the benefits will be apparent.