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The EMS Workforce: It's a Complicated and Dynamic Issue

December 4, 2022

Author:  Joshua Ishmael, MBA, MLS(ASCP)CM, NRP

It’s no question that Emergency Medical Services (EMS) is a vital public service that gives direct access to quality emergency care; which drastically improves the survival and overall mortality of those who experience sudden illness or injury. It’s also no surprise that COVID radically changed the healthcare landscape – including the industry’s once robust workforce. EMS is no stranger when it comes to addressing workforce shortages – we’ve been “bleeding people” for some time. The pandemic has simply exacerbated this issue and this has forced both state and federal legislators to consider various policy options once again. This includes adjusting licensure and certification requirements, expanding recruitment and retention efforts, and addressing burnout and safety concerns.

Why is there such a large desire for a career change? What drives the dissatisfaction?

Is it…….

Wages/Benefits/Failed Recruitment Initiatives/Stalled Employee Growth/Lack of Leadership Training

THE ANSWER IS YES ON ALL ACCOUNTS! Keep in mind that this is a non-exhaustive list; we’re simply scratching the surface.

We are indeed at a crossroads and to complicate matters more - the “graying of America” is in full affect as baby boomers continue to retire at a blistering pace. Aging also lends itself to increased incidence of chronic health conditions that EMS has to mitigate in their respective communities.

As you can imagine, complex problems invariably require complex and difficult solutions. EMS systems are only effective when they have access to a sufficient, stable, safe and well-trained workforce. The market is dynamic and its actively changing. EMS workforce supply and future population demand is likely going to get worse before it gets better.


•Identify Critical Issues/Assess Needs/Evaluate Options/Analyze Data/Implement Solutions (this can be applied to all problems)

•Bring together DIVERSE groups of problem solvers. (Read TEAM OF RIVALS by Doris Kearns Goodwin)

•Review the economics of all decisions – what does it cost if we do NOTHING?

•Consider educating public opinion – influencing public sentiment can go a long way

•Be painfully curious and ask for the data – embrace further workforce related research, it’s how we get better. We’ve addressed some things like burnout, but more work is necessary.

•Consider tailored and targeted approaches (think urban vs. suburban vs. rural) a one size fits all solution likely won’t be sustainable or even make sense.

•Don’t forget about the volunteer workforce – consider their needs as well

•Develop, prioritize and continually tweak best practices

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