The Demand for EMTs Remains High

Jennifer Everett, paramedic, captain and training manager at Gates Ambulance Station: Company used to average 15 calls daily but for the past 18 months, it’s been 35 calls a day

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

If you are interested in the medical field and enjoy high adrenaline situations, working as an emergency medical technician might be for you.

Emergency medical technician (EMT) programs at community colleges or other schools last one semester (about 100-150 hours) and accept applicants as young as 17 (must be 18 upon completion). After successfully passing the exam, EMTs must complete 36 hours annually as a refresher and recertify every three years to maintain their credential.

In addition, “you have to be a people person,” said Jevon Tomaschko, chief of operations at Brighton Volunteer Ambulance. “You’ll be dealing with people who are having a bad day, and are in vulnerable states. You have to have understanding and compassion. You don’t find emergency medical services; emergency medical services finds you.”

He added that interest in biology and ability to effectively manage stress help.

The state requires that each person working as an EMT must be able to lift 125 pounds individually or 250 with assistance, read and speak English fluently and carry a valid driver’s license. Individual agencies may also have additional requirements, such as a commercial driver’s license for a mobile stroke unit.

The role has significant turnover because of the entry-level nature of the work.

“Typically, people start as an EMT and use the experience to move on to nursing school, medical school, police department or fire department,” Tomaschko said. “There’s also the paramedics. Many start as an EMT and if they have a passion for it, they go on to a paramedic, which is one year to 18 months’ education. It’s much more in-depth education with cardiology, pharmacology, patient diagnosis and pathophysiology.”

Taking a National Registry EMT course and passing the associated exam can enable an EMT to work on cruise ships, oil derricks, in rural areas and internationally.

“These positions can be very lucrative,” Tomaschko said.

Jennifer Everett, paramedic, captain and training manager at Gates Ambulance Station in Rochester, has worked in emergency medical services for 35 years, starting as an EMT while in college. She volunteered with her local ambulance agency and eventually made it her career.

“No day is ever like another one,” Everett said. “There’s always something different.”

In addition to going into training as Everett did, she said that EMTs can also work at some doctor’s offices or hospitals providing minor patient care or with a hospital-based ambulance.

The demand for EMTs is high. Everett said that her company used to average 15 calls daily but for the past 18 months, it’s been 35 calls a day.

“We’re looking for creative ways to bring people into the industry and to be considered an essential service,” Everett said. “That would help increase funding. Every industry is hurting for people to work. The truth is if we can’t find people to do the job, someone may not get an ambulance on time. We do the best we can with mutual aid from other ambulance companies. We do what we can to support each other.”

Despite the long, difficult shifts and emotional demands of the work, Everett still believes that it’s a great job.

“The pay is improving and it has job security. You could go almost anywhere in the world and get a job as an EMT. You do have the opportunity to save lives. If you save someone dying in front of you, that drives you to come back the next day.”

Paramedic classes take one to two years to complete with an average of 1,000 hours of training and 800 hours of clinical time. The model used to be one paramedic and one EMT per ambulance.

However, Everett said that the current staffing model because of fewer providers is two EMTs per ambulance with a paramedic in a “fly car” responding to acute calls as needed.

“Priority is assigned by an accredited 911 center,” Everett said. “We don’t make that decision.”

She encourages anyone interested in working as an EMT to take advantage of opportunities at volunteer agencies that provide free classes for those who pass the exam.