New study points to shortage of new EMS workers

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A new study shows a troubling trend among EMS workers in South Carolina. Not only is there a shortage, but there’s also there’s also a decline in the number of people getting training.

It begs the question: Will there be enough people to help when you call 911?

The research from the South Carolina EMS Association and the South Carolina Office of Healthcare Workforce reveals the problem isn’t that there aren’t enough training centers or classes but there aren’t enough young people interested in signing up.

Ever since Trevor Owens was a kid, he says he felt called to a career where he could make a difference.

He didn’t stop at Firefighter. 4 years ago he got trained as an Emergency Medical Technitian as well.

“It makes you feel good knowing that you can actually do something, even though it’s a basic level you can still do something to help save somebody’s life,” said Owens.

But a new study shows people like Owens are increasingly rare with a substantial drop in the students enrolling and graduating from EMT training last year.

“There’s a 40% vacancy currently and we have to do a better job of recruitment and retention,” said Steve McDade with the SC EMS Association.

A prior EMS Association study also found an overall shortage in trained workers which is doubly concerning for people like Sandra Moreno whose life was saved by first responders after an asthma attack.

“They were my saviors they were my angels becuse I mean I was there along with my little one and the thing is when you have asthma you’re like a fish in a bowl and your like ah, you stop breathing it’s very scary,” said Moreno in Spartanburg.

To combat the shortage, there’s a new marketing initiative to entice high school seniors to join the profession.

There’s also a push for better salaries. The average EMT worker gets about $33,500 a year.

Owens is not surprised by the drop. But he hopes the trend will turn around since the strain of the job is enough without a shortage of people willing to step up and do it.

“Your heart has definitely got to be there becasue it’s not for everybody,” said Owens.

The EMS Association says only about 105 EMS workers graduate a year in South Carolina and the goal is to grow that number to at least 150 to meet the need.

Retention is another conern with 72% leaving the profession after eight years. Earlier this year the Greenville County Administrator announced a nearly one and half million dollar plan to add 30 new EMT/paramedics after a petition saff shortages and burnout problems.

So far the county says they’ve hired 5 people out of their goal of 30.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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