Demand Strong For Paramedics And Emergency Medical Techs

By CityTownInfo.com Staff
April 22, 2009

Many laid-off workers are training to be paramedics and Emergency Medical Technicians, two professions experiencing a nationwide shortage.

The New York Daily News reports that the number of students in LaGuardia Community College's EMT certification program increased 33 percent this year.

"People realize that this is a fairly recession-proof career," noted Christine Alvarez, the program director, who explained that fire departments, private ambulance companies and hospitals are typically always hiring EMTs. She said that an EMT can earn between $35,000 and $65,000 annually.

Interest in the course is so high that Alvarez has been forced to place applicants on a waiting list for future semesters. Many of the applications come from minimum-wage workers and people recently laid off.

South Carolina's The Augusta Chronicle reports that Aiken Technical College is beginning an apprenticeship program for emergency paramedics to counter the county's shortage of Emergency Medical Service staff. A county EMS official remarked that he could use about nine more paramedics.

Todd Glover, county assistant administrator, noted that keeping paramedics is difficult because many go on to study nursing, which offers a better salary. In addition, EMTs need to be physically fit in order to be able to lift and bend.

"I have often heard that nobody retires as a paramedic," Glover said, "because the older you get it becomes increasingly difficult to perform the physical tasks."

Jeffrey Farrell, who was quoted in Pennsylvania's The Reporter Online, is one such example. Laid off from his Internet technology job three years ago, he volunteered as an EMT, and expects to complete Montgomery County Community College's registered nursing program next spring.

According to The Chronicle, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated that in 2006 there were 201,000 EMTs and paramedics throughout the country, but projected that demand would increase to 240,000 by 2016.

In a related story, Delaware's The News Journal reports that nationwide, minorities are significantly underrepresented as paramedics. In response, two New Castle County Council members are seeking to boost more diversity in the local force, which has six minority members out of a staff of 104.

According to a 2008 survey by the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians, nearly 80 percent of all paramedics are white. Experts attributed the lack of diversity to inadequate recruitment and a significant number of EMT staff coming directly from volunteer fire and ambulance companies, which also typically struggle with a lack of minority representation.

County officials have been visiting minority communities, attending career and job fairs and making other efforts, but with little success.

Autumn Tuxward, a black paramedic, agreed that minorities are not aware of this career option. "Coming from my perspective of being an African-American," she said, "this is not an occupation that is advertised to the people in my community. I know that no one ever came to me as a child and said, 'Hey, do you want to be a paramedic?'"

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