Are all FTOs ignored?

A few days ago, I had a new-hire employee riding along with me, for her evaluation rides. My company seems to think that 3 rides with a Field Training Officer is enough to prepare new EMTs for the field, and this was her third ride. So, ostensibly, it was also her last. Her two previous rides were with a different FTO, on the other shift

In the morning, I got an email from Topper, the other FTO that she rode with the previous day. His email was purely objective, and simply stated that the employee drove only for a short while, but was proficient with radios, the MDT, the computer, and checking the truck off.

Essentially, she was going to spend the day with me, driving, and she would occasionally ride in the back with me to the hospital. I like to have a game plan with new employees. We don’t get a lot of time with them, so I try to focus on the things they need the most.

When she introduced herself to me, I noticed something was ‘off’ about her personality. I couldn’t tell exactly what it was, but she was pleasant, and that’s always a good start. She needed some prompting to check the truck off, and to log into the MDT, which I thought was strange, remembering she was with Topper just the previous day, and she did all of this stuff.

Then the day just spiraled downhill.

Her driving was terrible. Not in the rough sense, but in the sense that she was scared to drive. She consistently drove 10 miles an hour under the speed limit. On every road. She was driving on the interstate, complaining that the tractor trailer in front of her was going 45 miles per hour. For several miles. Yet she never tried passing, even though there was virtually no traffic on the interstate. She stopped completely at a green light while we were traveling to an emergency, because “I thought that car was going to turn in front of us.”

She wasn’t interested in patient care, at all. While at an accident scene, with two patients quite some distance apart, I looked for her. I needed some extra hands, and she was standing at the back door of the ambulance, looking around, with her hands in her pockets. After loading a patient from the scene into the ambulance, she had to be told that Newguy needed vital signs taken, and then had to be told to take them when she failed to act.

Typing all this out makes me feel like I am lamenting my position as an FTO. I really don’t want that to be the case. But what we had here was a person who obviously was not Local Ambulance Company material, and maybe was not cut out for EMS at all.

Newguy and I tried talking with her several times throughout the day, but she was either not interested or couldn’t comprehend what we were saying. Neither Newguy nor I are rude, but this girl simply didn’t get it.

So I wrote as much in my evaluation of her. I have never had to give a negative evaluation on an employee since I have been an FTO at this company, and I suppose my naivete’ got the best of me. In my review, I explained what I explained here, and in further depth. I suggested the new employee receive some more FTO-monitored third rides, and perhaps not be hired full-time.

I guess I expected the Training department to call me or email me and want to discuss my concerns. I think most of my readers will know that I wasn’t contacted at all. Of course not. My review was essentially ignored, and the employee was scheduled to ride on her own the next day.

Which lead me to ask the questions: if FTOs aren’t listened to, what is the point of having us out there? Is it like this at every service? Is the joke really on me, because I expected more out of my management team?

Is this just another straw on the camel’s back, causing more burn out, or do I feel slighted because I’m burned out?


  1. Flash Larry says:

    One of the duties that has come to me over the past few months is the screening of employee candidates. If an EMT-I or EMT-A (which is all we accept), I run them through a scenario airway station, an IV station, a patient assessment station and a spinal immobilization station. It does not take me very long to determine whether the person is satisfactory – can actually do the skills. Some are very good, some simply competent, some marginal and some not competent. I not only do a checklist, I write out a detailed report on performance and my impressions. So far, HR has accepted my assessments and essentially, these people have to get past me to get hired. This seems to have (I hope) improved the type situation you have described.

    Some months ago (when this duty was in the hands of my predecessor), I got on an ambulance with someone who, being an EMT, was required to drive. She was unmanageable; refused to listen to any directions or ideas, though I’ve been working in this county now for over 40 years. I insisted that she follow en engine to a call at a very large, sprawling complex that involves several different apartment names, condos, and other residences. She first tried to get a jump on the engine, and then wouldn’t keep up with it.

    Person cut – fell into a glass door – and I said, “You want to handle the on-scene care?” Nope, she didn’t. Didn’t even want to put on a bandage but left that to the fire department.

    I later learned from her that she really didin’t want to be there. She wanted to be a firefighter but was unable to meet the physical agility requirements so she became an EMT hoping that would get her in the door. So she had joined us to get the experience. But didn’t want the experience, just the time in grade.

    Was she competent? I don’t know, she never did anything, wouldn’t listen to any instruction and ended up getting lost – big lost – while heading for a hospital that is one of our main ones. Even with a GPS she got lost.

    That’s why I like my old partner, Spiderman. He’s as good an EMT as I have worked with and makes it all easy. I can’t figure out why all the young medics detest him while all us old ones thing he walks on water.

    What’s it with these kids? Except Spiderman, he’s way cool.

  2. I don’t think you’re burned passed the point of no return. What I recommend is a vacation followed by a change of employer. I really think you can be happy as a medic again- but not there.

  3. Sounds exactly like a typical training department and sounds exactly like a typical awful employee. She’ll be running the training department in no time, and she’ll remember you gave her a bad eval.

    • I swear we work at the same company some times. Maybe they are just all the same now.

      • We do all work at the same company. FTOs serve two purposes and only two in my opinion.
        1) To do the work that the managers/chiefs don’t want to do and thus be a handy fall guy/scapegoat/straw man
        2) To make the public think that we really are organized adults competently running an agency. When in fact we’re not much better than kindergarteners running amok while the teacher is gone.

  4. I’ve had many of the same experiences, especially when I was an EMT FTO. Management has it’s own agenda, which only they understand. At my former place, for the most part, only white males were at risk for failing out during training. I’ll leave the details for you to fill in.

    At the ALS level, because the stakes are that much higher, there is more scrutiny. Or was, although I hear that has changed since I retired.

    At the risk of being branded sexist, I’ll say that lately a fair number of females seem to get into the field for social reasons, not because they want to be actual EMS providers. I don’t understand it, I’m just reporting it.

    Oh, one thing I was well known for was having a stack of job applications for a well known chain of fast food restaurants. I’d give them to substandard trainees and suggest that they might want to consider a career change.

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