First There First Care Exhibitor information page FTFC logo with Fire Chief logo

June 10-14 2024 SAVE THE DATE!

June 12 – 16, Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, Hollywood, FL 33314

Embracing Teamwork in Emergency Medical Services

In his Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man, published in 1786, Thomas Reid wrote, “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.”

Very few industries embrace “The Team” concept like EMS and the fire service.

Because EMS professionals routinely operate in high-stakes, unpredictable environments the coordinated efforts of Paramedics, EMTs, and other support staff are vital in achieving successful patient outcomes.

Facilitating these collaborative efforts is the responsibility of all team members. Buying into the team concept, learning to work together, and pulling in the same direction are essential for positive patient outcomes and successful delivery of services.

Recognizing the Significance of Teamwork in EMS

Patient care depends on the synchronized efforts of a multidisciplinary team. Our very own Dr. Paul Pepe coined the term now famously known as the “Chain of Survival.” The very essence of this concept highlights Reid’s statement of the power within a strong chain.

This is best illustrated in the Pit Crew concept of resuscitation. Each member of the team has a specific role and each role must be performed in sequence to affect a positive outcome.

From early recognition, early intervention, and coordinated patient transfer, the integrated efforts of EMS professionals and the definitive healthcare team have a tremendous impact not only on patient outcomes, but on the patient’s perception of the system as a whole.

Communication Skills

An effective team begins with effective communications. Anyone who has participated in a team building exercise knows the tasks presented have little to do with achieving the task and everything to do with communicating and working together. Below are three areas where effective communications, in EMS, can be fostered.

Active Listening: “First seek to understand.” Open the ears and shut the mouth. A message is not properly transmitted if the listener doesn’t receive it. This involves fully engaging with colleagues, understanding both verbal cues and non-verbal signs, like body language. Speak in terms the listener can understand. Ask for confirming feedback to show the message was both received and understood.

Utilizing Proper Radio Etiquette: Radio communication is the backbone of emergency services. Clear radio communication using plain language and confirming transmissions ensures all team members are in sync. Speak clearly and distinctly. Remain calm. Radios do not transmit shouting (over-modulating) or rapid, extensive chatter, well. Speak in short sound bites, seeking confirmation after each transmission.

Patient Handoffs: The single greatest disconnect in patient care is arguably the patient handoff at the ED. EMS crews are often pressured to “clear and copy” while ED nurses are often taking report on the fly, while tending to other patient needs.

Taking control of the handoff procedure and keeping a mental checklist of items to be communicated helps ensure a smooth patient transfer and continuity of patient care.


Recognizing the entire healthcare chain is part of the same team is the first step in creating cohesiveness. The renowned public information officer, Joe Farago said, “The time to build a house is not during a hurricane.”

Building relationships with the greater group of team members during quiet times allows for better interaction during stressful times.

Lunch and learn activities, cross-training, social engagements, and team building exercises are great ways to get to know the people on the team and appreciate who they are, without the chaos that comes during those high-stress moments.

Also, knowing each other’s protocols, procedures, and limitations allows for tolerance and understanding as to why things must be done a certain way.

Building Trust and Reliability

In the 1300s, the prolific author Geoffrey Chaucer wrote, “Familiarity breeds contempt.”When we work closely with others, over long periods of time, we tend to define others not by their strengths but by their quirks and idiosyncrasies. This tends to breed negative feelings and can create fractures within the team.

Empathy and Emotional Intelligence: Everyone responds to stressors differently. Recognizing how others react and showing empathy strengthens team cohesion.

Ethics and standards: Respecting industry ethics and adhering to a given level of standards establishes a baseline that all members of the team recognize and agree to.

Conflict Resolution in Stressful Scenarios

Despite all the above efforts conflict is going to occur among team members. It’s important to recognize that conflict usually represents an opportunity for growth.

De-escalation Techniques: Training in conflict resolution helps maintain professionalism during tense situations. There is a tremendous amount of science and research into methods of deescalating conflict.  All team members should be familiar with recognizing sources of conflict and how to resolve them, both short and long term.

Debriefing: Conducting debriefs and post incident analysis (PIA) after conflict or stressful events can both identify areas of weakness and help strengthen team relationships.

Continuous Development and Training

Simulation Exercises: Conducting Mass Casualty Incident (MCI) simulations and other scenario-based training enhances teamwork.

Peer Review and Feedback: Engaging in Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) through regular feedback encourages continuous growth.

Leadership and Fostering Teamwork Culture

It’s often said the fish stinks from the head first. Too often, when the team struggles or fails it becomes easy to blame the team leader.

While team dynamics dictates everyone must pull in the same direction, it is ultimately the responsibility of the leader to point the team in the right direction and intervene early when challenges occur.

Embrace Incident Command: Leaders should promote a culture that aligns with the Incident Command System (ICS), encouraging collaboration and clear role delineation. A well established ICS structure improves communications flow and reduces the risk of cross over and conflicting actions.

Mentorship: When you were going through your paramedic training you were partnered with an experienced medic who guided you, showed you tricks of the trade and probably introduced you to the best restaurants in your district.

Mentoring others and sharing your wisdom and experience helps build trust and a bond between team members. It also helps set others on a pathway which shares your vision.

The landscape of Emergency Medical Services is both challenging and rewarding. To navigate this demanding field successfully, EMS professionals must invest in developing and honing their teamwork skills. By focusing on specific areas like communication, collaboration, trust, conflict resolution, continuous quality improvement, and effective leadership, EMS teams can deliver top-tier, synchronized care.

The cultivation of these skills not only enhances the quality of prehospital medical care but also supports the emotional well-being of EMS professionals. The synergistic approach within the EMS community is more than an enhancement of the service; it is the very essence of patient-centered care in emergency medicine.