By Keith Algozzine
An estimated 240 million emergency calls are placed to 911 in the United States each year.
It’s difficult to contemplate, but what would happen if no one was there to help? Workforce shortages and talent gaps have dominated headlines in a post-pandemic job market, and no industry or trade has been spared. One sector hit predominantly harder than others is the health care industry, including Emergency Medical Services (EMS), which have seen a dramatic turnover rate.
According to a 2021 study centered on paramedics and ambulatory services, organizations reported that 32% of employees planned to depart in the first year of employment, which means that every three to four years, an entire workforce experiences a complete turnover.
This churn rate for emergency medicine personnel also carries a financial impact. Recruiting, screening, and onboarding a full-time EMT adds up, an estimated $6,780 per person. For paramedics, that increases in excess of $9,000 per hire.
What drives such rapid attrition?
One factor pushing this phenomenon is that paramedics and EMTs are looking for new jobs, higher pay, and better benefits. Other factors include that their jobs have become increasingly risky over time, and they are often overburdened as one of few options for health care in many communities, making the workload heavy and spread across fewer individuals.
Additionally, circumstances such as being met with verbal and physical violence while providing medical services have also contributed to higher levels of burnout among emergency response services. The Journal of Emergency Medical Services listed that 86% of first responders experienced Critical Stress (CS). In a literature review by Lewis-Schroeder et al. (2018), studies show that the prevalence of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is higher among first responders compared to the general population.
These consequences are not limited to financial, labor, and mental wellness.
When a scarcity of EMTs, paramedics, and emergency response units exists, first responders are taken offline and removed from service. Limiting the number of responders can lead to delays in care and dangerously lengthen response times, increasing the already-present jeopardy of those in an urgent situation.
The global pandemic already strained the emergency response infrastructure, and the stress on the EMS labor pool only further exacerbates the associated problems. The fact is, across the country, cities and counties are searching for solutions to maintain and strengthen critical, life-saving talent and provide the highest level of care for the communities they serve.