07/31/07 29 W - + 17 - 19 Shortage of EMS Workers

Today's News & Observer features an interesting article on Triangle EMS agencies and their recruitment and retention challenges. There's also a related graphic on vacancy rates.

Interesting article, but not much thought given by the interviewed Mr Richmond. His comment as follows:
“On average, police officers nationwide earn $18,000 more and firefighters almost $11,000 more than EMS workers. And police and firefighters require less training to do their jobs, Richmond said.”

Does this guy, from Louisville, Ky. know what he is saying? I guess he doesnt consider the FF/EMT/Hazmat Tech/Car Seat Installer/whatever else the chiefs decide we need to be certified in? Has a Fire Chief ever gone in the news and publicly said “EMS sleeps more on their downtime where Firefighters train, pre-plan, do engine company inspections, and install car seats”....no, I dont think so. What about the FF/Medics in Miami-Dade, or the Public Safety Officers who are required to be certified Police Officers, EMTs and Firefighters? I’m sure they appreciate the “we’re better than you” attitude. The key is to build and support eachother in public safety instead of make misleading comments about another profession.

We are all under-paid, and at times under-appreciated. Self glorification or public trumping is not the way to go. We’re in this together…
J.Boggs (Email) - 08/01/07 - 15:09

We are all underpaid- paramedics, firefighters, and LEOs. And don’t forget the telecommunicators at 9-1-1. But as long as we as a society value someone’s ability to bounce a basketball, attract attention on “Entertainment Tonight”, or any one of a hundred other ‘occupations’ that really do not matter in the grand scheme of things, we are always going to rate anywhere near the top.

I am sure that there was more to Mr. Richmond’s comments than the one quoted. That is typical of media interviews. Part of the media’s job is to make us think, or at least react. This article did just that. Some of us ‘reacted’.

Unfortunately, the public has very little real idea of what paramedics do. When I met my wife six years ago, she had no idea exactly what we did. She (and her circle of friends) thought it was like “Paramedics” on Discovery Channel. MVCs, GSWs, cardiac arrests, etc. She had no idea that someone would actually call 9-1-1 because their toe was hurting.

The main point of the article was to highlight the inability of various agencies to attract, hire, and retain paramedics. It was not intended to belittle fire and law enforcement. Fire and police do not have the recruitment issues nor the retention issues that EMS has. We have to find a way to keep paramedics. WHo do you want caring for you? Someone with 12 months of experience or 12 years? Unfortunately, there is not much we can do that will not cost a significant amount of money (15-25% pay raises, 24/72 shifts, 12 hour shifts, etc.).

I have my own ideas, but I am curious to see what everyone else thinks.


“Bustin’ mine to save yours. 24/7, 365. For the past 31 years.
DJ - 08/01/07 - 18:18

I agree with DJ. From what I know, the fire department’s problem is primarily funding. There is never a shortage of people wanting to join the fire service. Some of the smaller departments do have the problem of retaining fire fighters that are simply climbing their way to the bigger departments, but primarily it is funding. I’m not real familiar with the problems facing EMS agencies, but the rescue squad I am on in Mecklenburg County has a horrible time recruiting new EMTs and keeping them on the squad. Most use the squad to get to PA, nursing, or medical school.
CFP743 - 08/01/07 - 18:27

My daughter just graduated nursing school last year and now works at an unnamed area hospital on New Bern Avenue. As she said to me, as a paramedic I can do so much more than she can for my patients, but she makes more than I do.

Go figure.
DJ - 08/01/07 - 18:40

In light of things, I agree DJ. However,I have yet to have a paramedic accompany me on a Pre-Plan on a highrise with MCI potential or a car seat installation where the higher-educated paramedic could enlighten the parents on the physiological effects of an MVC. And there is an EMS unit in my station.
Jason Boggs (Email) - 08/06/07 - 22:54

EMS is in the process of undertaking a pre-incident planning process for identified facilities, etc. throughout the County. The problem is that when you are running nearly 70,000 calls per year with around 35 ambulances (and transporting about 2/3 of those – meaning over 1 hour per call), dedicating time to such processes will be challenge.
Olson - 08/06/07 - 23:15

Good point on call volume, Jon. Having considerable experience as a firefighter, I understand the importance of pre-planning. At two stations I have been at, both in a fire station, I have tried to make plans to go with them on preplanning visits. However, on every occasion, my unit invariably gets a call, so then we are gone 1 hour or more. That is also the reason that many times I get lunch at 1600, supper at 2100, etc.

With that being said, I have still made a conscientious effort to learn my current district. I have been through several long term care facilities, commercial buildings, a sports arena, and several shopping centers that are in my first due area. I have evaluated each of these based on my needs as a paramedic. But understand this- I have managed to stay at my current station since September 2006, which is very, very rare in EMS. It has taken me that long to learn what I have on my first due area, but there is a considerable area that I have not been able to go through that was added in last year (N Harrison and I-40). Imagine trying to learn a territory when you are only there for 3 months with the associated call volumes (including move-ups)! I know EMS 4’s and 9’s areas as good as my own living room. I know 1471’s simply because I live in Holly Springs. As for the rest- I’m lost. Cary has changed since I ran with Yrac in the 80s. There is a 4-lane highway where the old two-lane US 1 North used to be. There are tons of new buildings and developments in the quaint Raleigh that I grew up in. I truly dread the day I have to go out to some of the other stations simply because I do not know the area, know my way around, or know the inside of many of the buildings.

I guess a hold over from my fire days is that I spend a certain amount of off time learning various things about my district. I try to combine various other things with this practice. A visit to RBC, Rex, a doctor, or the flea market also produces ‘pre-plan data’ that is filed away in the back of my tired old brain.

It is real easy to try and compare EMS and fire. I know I have tried to do it hundreds of times. But really, aside from the fact that we both respond to emergencies, it really separates there in many ways because of mission profile. And that ties into response volume. EMS, for several reasons, is driven by call volume based upon geographical location with consideration of a maximum response time of 11:59 (did I get that right, Jon?). The fire service is managed on a response distance concept (hence 5 or 6 mile districts in the county, and the placement of stations in the city). There is no ISO for EMS. We can discuss the disparities of that all day long, and I certainly have my opinions.

What has worked for me, in an unspoken way, is that I rely on the fire departments to know the buildings (like best ways to get in and out, obstacles, hazards that might get me hurt, etc). I rely on them to recognize hazards as they develop on scene (and don’t think for a second that I am not also watching out- it’s one of my ‘rules’- copies on request) like at an MVC. In turn, they can rely on me to get my patients taken care of (which also makes them look good in the end) and to get THEM taken care of if something happens to them. Everybody looks out for everybody.
DJ - 08/07/07 - 09:09

So Jason – did you ever invite the paramedics to accompany you while you do your work? Try it….maybe you’ll be surprised?
Skip Kirkwood (Email) (Web Site) - 08/07/07 - 09:48

I have, and I usually hear “no, thats allright” or snoring. (In all honesty).
Granted, they DO get up more than us in the night, and have to stay out longer. If we were allowed to sleep, we would too.
J.Boggs (Email) - 08/07/07 - 17:45

Without trying to start anything (not my intention at all), no one has asked me since I left F-V. And I have been at the same station (EMS-4 on A shift) since September. I went out a few times with F-V and HS, but call volume in Raleigh makes it hard. And as an FTO I have a lot of new people that I would like to get into good habits. Yes, we are gone a lot, but the asking does count. I cannot speak for all of my co-workers (well, I might be able to) but I do try and get out and about. It is difficult when you have partners that would rather sleep (something I rarely do during the day). And it is frustrating to make plans but someone’s chest pain, respiratory distress, toe pain, or rash comes up.
DJ (Email) - 08/07/07 - 18:53

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