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The Dire Impact EMS Staffing Shortages Has on Our Communities [Opinion]

By Justin Baker

While the industry has grown and improved thanks to advances in technology and new procedures, one thing that continues to plague the EMS profession is shortage of staff -- and this particularly holds true in areas that depend on volunteers.

Although EMS continues to grow and evolve as a nationally recognized profession, the journey has not been without hiccups. With the rollout of the accreditation rule for EMS programs in the State of Texas, which requires EMS programs to be tied to a college for the Paramedic Certification, the issue has only become more apparent. Now, these programs are requiring students to obtain college degrees to receive their paramedic certification.

This is great for the profession, but not for the volunteer community and rural areas, where we continually see the pool of volunteers dry up. The individuals that are able to go into Paramedic programs obtain these degrees and subsequently move out of the rural communities to pursue paid job opportunities. As a result, the group of EMS volunteers in most of these communities are aging and coming to retirement age with no one to fill these positions behind them.

This is leaving some communities with no options but to shut down their service and depend on neighboring communities to cover these areas. This causes huge delays in response times and impacts quality of care, as more area has to be covered with less providers. And, while these agencies are out helping their neighbors, they are leaving their own communities short staffed or without coverage at times.

It is time that community leaders start taking a serious look at what the next steps are to remedy this already hemorrhaging issue in many communities. Imagine if your family members lived in an underserved community and had an urgent need for emergency response. We need to make sure that there are enough providers to go around in order to provide the necessary care for the community.

Has your community found any solutions to this issue? We'd love to hear from you.

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Justin Baker

Justin Baker

Justin is the Emergency Preparedness Coordinator for BSA Health System, and Vice Chair of Panhandle RAC.

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