Document company policies to reduce risk & manage expectations
By Derrick E. Jacobus, MA, FP-C
Congratulations! After months of waiting for a decision, you’ve been hired by an ambulance company. During orientation, your field training officer gives you your identification card,
payroll information and your medical direction policies, and shows
you around the building.
After your first week of employment, your child gets very sick and
you need to call out to take care of him. You call on the supervisor
and she tells you that you’re on probation and aren’t entitled to time
off, and by doing so you risk losing your job.
You try to research this policy but can’t find any of this information
in the documentation you were given on your first day. The supervisor
tells you there isn’t a written policy, but it’s been a long-standing
practice at this agency. Can they
enforce this unwritten practice?
WHY DO WE NEED
Policies and procedures are the
first line of defense against risk
for any organization. If legal
actions are taken against an
agency due to incidents involving
their employees, it’s extremely
important to be able to show a
policy is in place to provide direction, and that the employee was
trained on the proper practices associated with the policy.
Clearly written policies and procedures allow employees to understand their roles and responsibilities within predefined limits, and they
allow management to guide operations without constant intervention.
Constant management involvement results in increased operating
expenses that detract from a company’s profitability.
In the case just described how do you show that an employee was
trained on the policies your agency deploys? There are numerous
software platforms available for purchase or subscription to that provide cloud-based policy training and content management services.
Alternatively, there’s always the tried and true method of paper and
an Excel spreadsheet that tracks who was issued policy information.
Although this article touches upon some details for policy development, you must understand that litigation is fluid and may change,
and it’s important to stay aware of these changes.
WHERE TO START?
If you recognize that your agency needs to revise or add to your existing policy library, where do you start? First, a word of advice: don’t
copy and paste another agency’s policies. Researching existing policies is helpful, but taking the content and simply changing the name
of the ambulance company will not be helpful in court.
Start with the highest-liability, high-risk policies first, as these
will be the most commonly defended in court. Such policies might
be emergency vehicle operations, malpractice, sexual harassment and
job abandonment. Once you know where to start with your policy
manual, you can start thinking about how to structure your policies.
Policies and procedures should reflect and express an agency’s
core values and priorities, and
provide clear direction to ensure
employees lawfully, effectively
and ethically carry out their
The purpose of a policy
is to provide employees with
the direction and guidance
necessary to improve and develop
as an individual, and to identify,
correct and prevent misconduct.
READY TO WRITE
There’s no fail-safe recipe for
creating policies that will protect you against lawsuits. However, if
you create and follow a structure for consistent policy development,
you’ll be better protected and reduce your risk of liability.
Agency polices can’t override state statutes and law, so be familiar
with the laws in your state and jurisdictions. Accreditation standards
are great to ensure your agency is following best practices.
The Commission on Accreditation of Ambulance Services (CAAS)
is a national, independent Commission that established a comprehensive series of standards for the ambulance service industry. Administrators should assign subject matter experts to write and/or review
When writing, keep in mind that polices should specify the when,
the where and the how, so be sure to ask the following:
>>What’s the reporting requirement? Example: Are cancelled with
no patient contact calls for service documented?
>>What’s the supervision requirement? Example: Does a supervisor
Clearly written policies &
procedures allow employees
to understand their roles
& responsibilities within