Jeff Diehl, Program Manager
REACH 11/52 (Thermal) and REACH 13 (Upland)
How would you summarize your job?
I have the opportunity to make new friends and develop trusting relationships so that I might have the opportunity to serve them. It just happens that our primary method of service is air-medical transportation. REACH, however, allows and encourages me to look for additional opportunities to serve beyond the obvious.
What did you want to be when you grew up, and what are some highlights from the time between then and now?
During my freshman year, we took an assessment test that suggested I would either be a cosmetologist or an ambulance driver. My desire, however, was to go into forestry. I didn’t really decide what I wanted to be until high school. My brother went into firefighting in the Air Force which motivated me to go in the same direction.
As a student firefighter, they were transitioning their employees and reemphasizing their mission to include pre-hospital care. Older firefighters had very little interest, so they placed the responsibility of medical calls on the student firefighter. You don’t fight many fires at that point in your career, and I found myself running medical calls over and over and over. And I enjoyed it! So I developed that skill. That was my segue to EMS.
From there, it went from basic to advance to flight to education. During this time, I had the opportunity to fly with 3 aero-medical companies over a fifteen year period. I started out terrified, though. My first paid EMT position was a local hospital-based ambulance service. I was so nervous that I accidentally dumped the entire contents of two trauma bags at the scene of a motorcycle accident. I would have retired on DAY ONE had it not been for one of the “Life Support” nurses who took pity on me and helped me develop the skills and confidence I needed over the next four to six months. That was 35 years ago. During my career, I’ve developed 3 passions: clinical, education and management. Each of them has had a “fear curve” that needed to be overcome (and sometimes still does). I’ve discovered that most of my fears have incredible opportunities right behind them.
On the path that led to where you are today, what were your top three supportive and/or motivational influences? They can be people, institutions, life events, anything.
- My older brother, who basically encouraged me in this direction.
- The most significant would be my wife. We’ve been together for 33 years, and she’s put up with all kinds of stuff. No matter what, we’ve been a team at this. I can come home and share everything. And no matter how stupid I sound, she always loves me. She is my most consistent motivation and encouragement. No matter how much I’ve enjoyed my career, I’d flip taco’s before I would give up the love of my life.
- The third one was that “life support” nurse who took pity on me, Herb Henderson. Had it not been for him, I don’t know. He never rolled his eyes or looked at me “that way.” If he had, I probably would have gotten out of the profession.
How do you feel about acknowledgment, appreciation, and awards, specifically in the workplace? What role should they play? How should they be used?
I think the challenge for management—or for me personally—is to always remember to replace “What’s going wrong?” with “What’s going right?” We are still responsible for resolving problems, but more importantly, we are responsible for actively looking for ways to praise and encourage. There are a variety of ways to communicate praise (verbal, email, card, gift cards, project help, etc.) Avoid using “positive ambiguity” type terms whenever possible. Emphasize the characteristic (endurance, dependability, punctuality, creativeness, etc.”) that is being demonstrated. One of my other philosophies involves the definition of “integrity” which, for me is: avoiding the compromise of your character regardless of where you are, who you’re with, or what you are doing. I’m definitely not there, but it’s a goal I strive for and I definitely look for opportunities to express appreciation when it’s being demonstrated.
What’s the most challenging thing about your job right now?
Wanting to help, wanting to be useful before I am fully “oriented.” I’m new, so right now it’s like changing a tire on a moving vehicle. But it’ll come. It takes patience. The more I learn, the more I can contribute.
What do you appreciate most about your coworkers?
One characteristic that I have really appreciated since I started is friendliness. I felt like I’d worked here for years from the beginning. I’ve never felt intimidated or afraid to ask a question. That makes learning a whole lot easier. When you couple their clinical standards, professionalism, and friendliness, in a safe environment, it’s no wonder REACH grows like it does.
What do you consider your leading contribution to the REACH mission of “always do what is right for the patient”?
I’d probably go back to relationship development. I had the opportunity to see REACH from the outside in while I was an EMS manager for a hospital-based ambulance service in Mendocino County. I watched REACH perform. I watched the crews and management develop relationships. I developed a great appreciation for Anna Blair, Eric Freed, Randy Lyman, Michael McBride and the med crews. When challenges developed, those relationships carried us through.
Just prior to coming to REACH, I was working for a group of technical colleges as an EMS program manager / educator. As they were scaling back some of the course offerings, I started considering my options. My wife had asked if I could work anywhere, where it would be — REACH. I wasn’t looking for a geographical place to work as much as I was looking for a company with mutually shared values.
Who’s in your family?
- Wife: Kathy
- Kids: Rachelle (31), Gabriel (27), Scott (25) and Camie (24)
- Granddaughter: Jerusha (1 ½)
I’d like to express my appreciation for Randy, Brandon, and Don. They have been incredibly supportive. For example, I had been researching the company before my interview. During a call to Brandon to ask some questions, he reminded me that, “interviews can be nerve wracking, but just remember, we’re all people.” He took an incredible weight off with that statement. The whole Southern California operation has been wonderful … nurses, medics, pilots, mechanics … you name it. Rarely in life do you find great chemistry like this in business. It’s happened twice in 35 years for me. This is my third. I didn’t expect another one. The chemistry is so good that you can actually make a lot of progress. I honestly feel spoiled to have another opportunity let alone with an organization where I get to focus on meeting someone else’s needs! And … it helps me at home. It supports me in those relationships that matter the very most.