Low pay, high stress lead to EMT shortage across country

Health

(NewsNation) — Emergency medical technicians are putting out their own call for help, asking for change as many leave the profession because of its long hours, low pay and high level of stress.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, being an EMT is one of the worst-paid jobs in health care. On average, they make 30% less than other working Americans, with most making less than $37,000 a year.

“In many cases, they can walk into a fast-food restaurant right now with no experience and earn the same or more as they would in an entry-level EMS position,” Lee Alameda, president of Local 12911, a union that represents health care workers in Turlock, California, said.

Because of this, fewer EMTs are entering the profession, causing a potentially dangerous shortage. A survey conducted by the American Ambulance Association found that the turnover among paramedics and EMTs ranges from 20 to 30 percent annually, meaning there’s 100 percent turnover every four years, The Hill reported in 2021.

The survey stated that 258 emergency medical service organizations across the country saw nearly a third of the workforce leave their company after less than a year, The Hill said.

“I’m seeing systems now where job openings are north of 20%,” health care expert Todd Furniss said.

Exacerbating the problem is that some EMTs are leaving their local hospitals to do travel work for better pay. Health care providers say they can’t increase pay because Medicaid and Medicare take months to reimburse them, and often pay less than half of what EMTs are worth.

But there could be issues if this problem isn’t fixed soon.

“What we’re going to see is a whole lot more folks who are underserved,” Furniss said. “And so that means bad things are going to happen to our population at large.”

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