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Former St. Louis FD paramedic takes on new role as PFT division chief

Former St. Louis FD paramedic takes on new role as PFT division chief

For over 20 years, Douglas Randell worked for one of the country’s largest fire departments as an EMT, paramedic and eventually EMS Training Officer. In September 2016, after his four children had grown, he made the jump from St. Louis to Plainfield by becoming its next Division Chief of EMS. Now he is bringing his experience and leadership to the Plainfield Fire Territory.

Douglas Randell, Plainfield Fire Territory EMS Division Chief. Photo by Chris Cornwall

It’s unusual to come into a new department in a leadership role, Randell said, so he made sure to meet many of his fellow firefighters and EMTs right from the start. Randell visited each of the stations at dinner time so he could sit down and eat with them.

“Employee engagement is a big part of my day,” he said. “For me, employee engagement is all about relationship management. When someone has an issue, I want them to feel confident and comfortable coming to me.”

As EMS Division Chief, Randell is responsible for ensuring lifesaving emergency medical equipment is up to par, and that billing documentation is accurate. However, he says his experience both on the job and with training EMTs is key.

“I think that is very important for someone in a leadership role to have real-world experience,” he said. “I’ve seen some very interesting things because of where I come from, and I try to provide some insurances. This is what’s expected when dealing with a particular circumstance because I’ve seen it, not because I’m guessing.”

Although Randell does go on cardiac arrest runs, his new role doesn’t require him to work a standard EMT shift, which lasts 24-hours. But, he chooses to do so anyway about once a month.

“The best way to evaluate a process is to get in there and do it,” he said. “Also, my office at headquarters is miles away from the other stations, so it’s a way to be part of the overall system.”

After Randell’s children were grown, he spent the next two years both working and going to school full time in preparation for a new challenge. He earned his Bachelor’s Degree in May 2016.

“It was a big challenge coming here, but I told myself I wanted to do something better.”

What inspired you to become a paramedic?

When I was 10-years-old, I wanted to be a gastroenterologist. The reason I learned about gastroenterology was because I would watch television and become sad when I saw people with stomach problems. I wanted to make people happy and able to eat…

So why didn’t go into medicine?

Although there was a good pre-med program at Iowa State, there was also the financial burden and my parents didn’t want me to be bogged down with student loans. So we went with plan B. I earned a scholarship to EMT school… I went for my first ride-along and I was bitten by the bug. I liked medicine, but to have the freedom of providing medicine in the natural habit of folks freed me to be who I was, where I was. Helping people in their location, I can’t really explain the feeling… When you treat them in a certain way and with respect, your day is so much better. I love being paramedic.

While on the job, what’s one of your best memories?

We don’t usually deliver babies, that’s a misnomer. We catch them. When mom is delivering those babies and we’re catching them, to see something like that joy and excitement when the process is over, and to be part of the process, bringing new life into the world is very special.

What do you think is most difficult about being a paramedic?

Being a paramedic is wonderful, but there is one part of the job that’s most difficult and it has nothing to do with skills. I’m talking about decision making. Any paramedic worth his/her salt is confident in what they do when making decisions. But early on in anyone’s career, there will be situations when they feel unsure. Questioning your own decision making can really bog you down…

 As EMS Division Chief, what does a normal day consist of?

My normal day is a day that I adapt, which is what I need to do to handle my responsibilities. For example, there could be equipment issues that I need make sure are resolved. Something goes south every week and it’s never the same issue… So there are always equipment issues, technology issues and things that just break.

Employee engagement is a big part of my day. For me, it’s all about relationship management and that means when someone has an issue they feel confident and comfortable coming to me.

I’m also responsible for EMS billing, which means ensuring documentation meets or exceeds the standard we have set to deliver good patient care…and also so we are able to properly bill the services we provide…

Apart from professional skills, how has your experience working with the St. Louis Fire Department prepared for this new leadership role?

While in St. Louis, I worked at a station with 800 people. You get to understand who people are. I’m not talking about a firefighter, an EMT or a paramedic. I’m talking about an individual. When you get to the core of a person, then you will know how to connect with them…

By Chris Cornwall

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