The People Professional

Cindy Essl approaches her work in a different manner—taking HR beyond mere operations and into the wellness component of East Texas Medical Center’s EMS division

Chances are, if you’re in need of emergency medical care in the vicinity of Tyler, Texas, Cindy Essl will be one of the people who help save your life.

To clarify, Essl isn’t a doctor, and she certainly won’t be dolling out the emergency care herself, but as director of human resources at East Texas Medical Center (ETMC) for the past seven years, she has been responsible for hiring the best people for the ETMC’s hospital-based ambulance service (EMS), and she takes her job very seriously.

“What I like about my job is that I can make a difference in someone’s life,” Essl says. “If an employee comes in and I talk with them about their problems and concerns, I think it makes me a better person and lets me appreciate my life and how blessed I am.”

“Most of our orientation revolves around education.”

EMS is one of the largest rural not-for-profit ambulance service in all of Texas, offering both ground and air support. It has a staff of highly trained emergency support and was accredited with ACE (Accredited Center of Excellence) and CAAS (Commission on Accreditation of Ambulance Services) as a mobile ICU provider.

Essl’s day-to-day responsibilities involve employee relations, handling everything from training management to investigating harassment. She also works closely in the payroll and compensation department, dealing with a wide variety of different shifts and hours that the EMTs and paramedics work.

“A great deal of what I do is administrative,” she says. “I may answer questions on benefits, work-related injuries, or talk to employees about problems and issues that may arise.”

A big part of her job is to provide support and be there for all employees, ensuring they are aware of the medical center’s employee-assistance program and working with them when they might have a difficult call or are having trouble processing what happened.

“We have a pretty close-knit organization,” Essl says. “There are times when employees may not process a call with the assistance they need and then later in their lives they are affected by it, so working with them to assure they receive the care they need is probably my main thing. Getting them the help they need helps them be successful in the end, too.”

Another chief part of the job involves recruitment, which isn’t an easy task since EMS must fight for experienced applicants. To help her, Essl has a retired military recruiter on staff, who is responsible for approaching the colleges. “Everyone knows him, and he even [helps] people who aren’t EMTs find jobs,” she says. “He attacks all nearby colleges, and uses social media to find qualified applicants.”

A selling point in working for ETMC’s EMS is that it offers certification and recertification through its education department. This streamlines the process, even though turnovers are still to be expected. When new hires come in, it’s up to Essl and her staff to make sure everyone understands everything and it’s a smooth transition.

“Most of our orientation revolves around education,” says Essl. “Our general manager discusses the history and how we came to where we are today. We have outlined the things we feel are important and the protocols for making them successful. EMTs will do several ride-outs with a field-training officer, while paramedic training is a little longer. At the end of all classes, everyone will understand what Dr. Moore, our medical director, expects of them.”

Yet the biggest challenge that Essl faces is with the constant change of the healthcare industry and how to properly align ETMC with the new regulations and what’s expected to be filed to the IRS.

But overcoming challenges is just part of the job. Over her years at ETMC, Essl has helped to institute a new timekeeping system using a finger-scan system and the same job codes as the hospital itself, which has helped the department run more smoothly.

Although she admits setting goals isn’t her greatest strength, looking ahead, Essl plans to maintain an effective relationship with ETMC, making sure all is compliant with the Affordable Care Act, and to make her department more integrative with the hospital’s overarching vision.

“This position fell into my lap, and I feel like I’m doing God’s work,” she says. “I’m doing something I love, and anytime I can assist our employees with their concerns, either personal or business-related, I feel a great accomplishment, and I couldn’t imagine anything better.”