A shortage of emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics has reached crisis levels.
Emergency medical service workforce shortages are threatening public health and jeopardizing timely responses to health care emergencies.
According U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, 11% of EMTs, paramedics and health technicians will leave the emergency medical services industry this decade. That’s the highest rate of departure from all occupations in the national economy.
“All of health care is suffering from burnout and it’s not surprising,” said Dave Schappe, EMS Programs Director at Central Oregon Community College. “What I have seen is a lot of people who delayed retirement, have retired. We are all exhausted after two years of dealing with the pandemic and for those who have that option, they are taking it.”
Central Oregon Community College offers a robust first responder training program that has graduated and placed hundreds of EMTs and paramedics.
Lately, most students have job offers before they graduate.
“The shortage has caused a number of students to rush through their internships, the final phase of paramedic education,” Schappe said. “We had a number of students that needed to be finished by August 1 or 15. It’s unusual for so for many of them to have paramedic jobs waiting for them when they got out.”
The Bend Fire Department recently hired 14 new EMTs, paramedics and firefighters.
Drew Norris, Bend Fire’s EMS chief, says the number of applicants has decreased by more than half the past three years, yet the demand for paramedics and other EMS providers is increasing.
“Every coin has two sides, and the other side of this coin is every one is getting a job. The students who are finishing up now, they’ve all been offered jobs in the valley at private agencies. Some have taken them, some haven’t. Some want to come back to Central Oregon and practice in this region but the jobs are out there for them. No question,” Schappe said.
Individual agencies are doing all that they can to bolster the pipeline, from creative partnerships with community colleges like the training COCC provides to offering sign-on bonuses and incentive pay.