Assessing the EMS labor crisis


While the EMS industry has been struggling with a labor shortage for years, the COVID-19 pandemic turned this shortage into a nationwide crisis. According to the American Ambulance Association, annual turnover among paramedics and EMTs ranges from 20% to 30%. Employees are also starting to leave their jobs faster, as almost one-third of EMS workers left their ambulance company after less than a year in 2020. Across many parts of the country, we are seeing cuts to services and longer wait times for ambulances, leaving companies scrambling to find solutions. 


Steps Companies are Taking


Companies across the country are taking various steps to address the labor crisis, including:


  • Training current employees to fill other positions
  • Implementing accelerated training courses
  • Improving financial compensation and incentives for students


It’s becoming increasingly common for companies to offer certification classes that allow current employees to serve in new positions, such as those allowing emergency care attendants to drive ambulances and help with advanced first aid. However, while this tactic somewhat relieves the stress of increased wait times and decreased on-the-ground services, it also creates vacancies at other positions. 


Accelerated EMS courses that include financial incentives have also been implemented. These programs can condense classes that typically last several months into several weeks, with students attending five days a week. Students take these classes for free while being paid an EMT’s salary, and students who have already finished schooling elsewhere are offered reimbursement if they join the company within 12 months of completion. 


These programs don’t just benefit the students, as many of the companies offering these programs require students to agree to work at the company for a set amount of time. The hope is these programs will make the company more attractive and cut down on both short-term and long-term turnover rates. 


Furthering Your Education During the Labor Crisis


If you’re a seasoned EMS worker, you’ve likely felt the stress caused by the labor crisis and may, understandably, be feeling overworked, stressed or exhausted. However, with the high turnover rate and the influx of inexperienced personnel, potentially making you the most experienced member on your team, it’s never been more important to continue furthering your education.


One great way to do so is by taking CEU courses, which help you master new skills, stay up to date on current research and practice skills you use infrequently at work. When practicing your skills, you should ideally use a patient simulator, as this allows for realistic training outside of the field and can be used to better simulate the stress of a real-life emergency.  


The SSCOR Blog is also a great source of information about current trends in the industry, issues you should be aware of and the proper way to handle difficult situations you might encounter in the field. 


Hope for Today


While the labor crisis is causing stress to EMS companies throughout the country, companies are undertaking creative solutions that benefit both themselves and future personnel. The trend toward mutually beneficial programs may not only solve short-term staffing issues but could also help solve high turnover rates moving into the future. 


As an EMS worker, continuing your education and staying up to date on your training is imperative. Not only will this set an example for younger personnel and prepare you for any situation, but it will also help ensure that patients receive the best care possible. That’s what matters most.