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Struggles to hire and retain EMTs could impact ambulance response times

Those in the EMS industry say, the lack of hazard pay, stresses of the job, plus a pandemic have impacted retention and recruitmentca

CARLISLE, Pa. — Local EMS agencies struggle to hire and retain new employees. This was an issue before the pandemic but has since gotten worse. 

"it's just really worrisome," said Nathan Harig, Cumberland Goodwill EMS Assistant Chief. "If we're not replacing the EMTs we're losing, what this could look like in 3-5 years."

To prevent a future crisis, Harig put out an offer of $25/hour plus a $20,000 signing bonus. However, it took several days to receive any applications. 

"To throw everything we have at this problem and still see a sluggish response has been very challenging and eye opening."

Harig says, a lack of hazard pay, stress of the job, plus a pandemic are to black for the challenge of attracting and retaining qualified employees. He's hoping something can be done on the state level to help with funding and training opportunities. It's nothings done, he says, there could be a big problem in a few years. 

"We're going to run into situations where we're not going to be able to respond and that's very scary for families, communities, local leaders," said Harig. "That you might not have an ambulance when you need it. We're doing everything we can but right now but it's scary when you look at the pool of applicants out there." 

Harig says, for anyone interested in becoming an EMT, to reach out to your local ambulance company. They can help point you in the direction of training and certification programs which take about six months to complete. 

The National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians says to become a certified EMT, you must:

  • EMT candidate must be 18 years of age or more.
  • He/she should have completed a state-approved EMT training program.
  • He/she must possess a valid CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) certificate.
  • The candidate is required to qualify the NREMT examination.
  • It is mandatory for the candidates to submit legal evidence of their U.S. nationality.
  • The candidate should be free from any mental or bodily ailment.
  • English fluency is a must for every applicant.
  • The candidate must compulsorily pass a criminal background screening.