Danger to EMS: Shortage of Paramedics
Dan Sullivan, the founder of The Strategic Coach Inc. and creator of the Strategic Coach® Program, developed a methodology for assessment named D.O.S., which stands for Dangers, Opportunities, and Strengths.
Dangers refer to things we are afraid of losing, opportunities offer the possibility to gain something, and strengths encompass our unique skills and abilities. In the upcoming blog series, EMERGICON will utilize this methodology to assess the Emergency Medical Services industry and offer insight on how to mitigate dangers, capitalize on opportunities, and develop the strengths that are most impactful.
Danger: Shortage of Paramedics
Ambulance services across the country face a paramedic shortage, which can have life-or-death consequences. A number of factors contribute to this challenging reality including low pay, burnout, job demand, new career opportunities with higher pay, and lack of training resources to develop new talent. Smaller emergency departments, for example, often can only hire those who are already certified due to a lack of training resources.
EMS agencies are not able to recruit enough paramedics and emergency personnel to keep up with the high turnover. A 2021 Ambulance Industry Employee Turnover Study reveals employee turnover and employee retention are the top two HR issues facing ambulance service providers. This study by the American Ambulance Association reveals EMT and paramedic turnover ranges from 20% to 30% annually, which translates to replacing an entire staff roughly every four years.
The market outlook for keeping up with the shortage, however, is not promising. Paramedic and EMT employment is projected to grow just 11 percent through 2030, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2022 data. That equals roughly 20,000 positions opening each year.
In Texas, for example, more than 70 percent of licensed EMS professionals did not work on an ambulance in the first eight months of 2021, according to new data from the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS). Frequently, emergency personnel uses the EMS profession as a stepping stone to a higher-paid position in healthcare, such as a nurse or doctor. Or some leave the field completely. Starting pay in 2021 for paramedics and EMTs was $17.16/hour, according to BLS 2022 data.
Texas is Stepping Up
Fortunately, the state of Texas is jumping in with a plan to address the EMS workforce shortage in Texas. The Texas Legislature passed a $21.7 million EMS education and recruitment initiative in October 2021, based on a proposal by the Texas EMS Alliance (TEMSA). This education and recruitment initiative uses funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
The Texas Department of Health and Human Services will define the new EMS education and recruitment program. TEMSA provided recommendations in February 2022 on how to allocate the money. Some of the suggestions include:
- Recruitment and outreach campaign to educate the Texas public about EMS careers,
- Regional workforce development initiative, and
- EMS educator incentives and tuition reimbursement.
Texas hopes to serve as a model for other states to follow, just like this plan was modeled after one in Pennsylvania.