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Medical helicopter at accident scene with EMS & Flight Safety Net Team

Over the past five years,

I’ve held coaching sessions with hundreds of nurses, paramedics and pilots

who want to fly air medical.

In all but a handful of these coaching sessions…

People bring up their bosses  — and vent about them.

This topic comes up without fail, no matter who I’m coaching, or what the career goal.

The troubles range from, “My boss has no idea what nurses and paramedics do” to “My boss doesn’t really care about me or anyone else on the team, it’s all about him” to “I’ve been busting my butt and my boss just doesn’t recognize my performance — he feels that everyone is equally wonderful” to “Where I work, it’s not about what you know, it’s all about who you know.” I can’t think of a gripe I haven’t heard.

The basic question is always the same… People want to know what they should do in these situations. “I can’t stand it anymore. Do I quit? Do I transfer to a different station?”…“Do I go above the boss to his or her boss?” Or “Am I just plain stuck with this guy?”

When I first started coaching and consulting, my advice ranged from “set boundaries and time limits before walking out the door” to “going over your boss’ head almost never ends well” to “it’s time to re-evaluate.”

Despite a lot of time and effort helping people through these challenges, most clients remained unhappy. The gripes about their bosses continued and sometimes worsened.

Out of necessity, I came up with a different approach. I realized I couldn’t change every “bad boss” situation in EMS and air medical. I also realized my approach, albeit exactly what my coaching students requested, wasn’t the best answer.

Adapt and Overcome

So what did I do?

I turned my entire process upside down. Instead of answering the “My boss sucks, what do I do?” question with an answer… I followed it with another question.

What is the question I started asking?

Would You Fly… for You?

It was truly a “deer in headlights” moment for many coaching students —including CEOs and directors with many employees.

As humans we share similar stereotypes about “the boss,” even when we hold the position ourselves. The tendency is to think of “the boss” as this far away entity that thinks up ways to screw worker bees and make their lives miserable. So thinking of yourself as the boss is sometimes a big mind-shift, even when you already hold the position.

I could see the gears turning…

The biggest mind-shift of all was how this one question moved the entire coaching session from gripe to great. Almost instantaneously the mood changed from crucification to salvation.

Now the coaching session was about how to make things better, instead of whose fault it was for screwing things up.

The One Big Challenge

The question is simple and straight-forward. No hidden agendas.


There is one challenge to doing it right.

The challenge is self-awareness.

It takes a certain threshold of self-awareness to recognize your own flaws. But again, you should see the look on people’s faces when they stop to honestly think through their own leadership characteristics. The self-confident, self-aware person, upon reflection, seems to really respond to this question.

The follow up reception I have received has been incredibly positive, demonstrated by the emails and letters from people who found this exercise really useful. Many of them had taken quiet time reflecting on both their strengths and their flaws  and, from their feedback, appeared open to dealing with their weaknesses in order to become stronger, more effective leaders.

Leaders who people want to follow.

What’s the point?

The point of this article is to ask you the same question and hope you’ll benefit from wrestling the same question.

If not, why not, and what are you going to do about it?

Are you really serious about improving yourself and your leadership ability? Go all in.

Put yourself “out there” by sharing a comment below. It’s hard to commit publicly. I know.

But the good news…

Once you do, you are 100% on a path to getting better. Seems a small price to pay for the benefit to EMS and air medical.

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Troy Shaffer
Troy Shaffer

About the Author: Troy is an Air Medical Career Expert passionate about a team approach to improving air medical safety from the ground up. Troy is a former Army medic, Army pilot, Coast Guard pilot and EMS pilot. Troy has taught hundreds of wannabe flight medics, flight nurses and EMS pilots the exact steps needed to launch air medical careers.

    2 replies to "Would You Fly for… You?"

    • Ellie Keen-Dillon

      I see HealthNet come in to Memorial and I always shudder a little because it is never something good – BUT – it IS something good because a life has probably been saved. All of you are totally awesome in what you do and God bless all of you. It takes special people to do your jobs. I have so much respect for all of you.

      • Troy Shaffer


        Thanks for the kind words. A lot of folks who work EMS Flight Safety Network careers don’t get to hear nice things as often as they should. Your comments will brighten their day. Thank you.

        Clear Skies & Tailwinds

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