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Paramedic Competition: Recruitment and Retention Strategies

Since the first COVID-19 infection emerged in the United States on January 20, 2020, EMS and healthcare workers as a whole have fought well against this disease. While there were full weeks and months of it feeling like we were fighting a losing battle, we are finally starting to catch up and fight this disease. However, even with the final decline in COVID numbers, a new battle for those in administrative positions in healthcare is emerging; trying to retain the employees we have, while simultaneously trying to attract new employees. All of this at a time when there has been a massive exodus of many people into the health fields.

While COVID has, of course, played a role in people leaving health care, COVID may have only been the tipping point in a long line of reasons why individuals seek exit. from the field of EMS and to develop in other fields of health care, or completely different career altogether.

Complaints from those in EMS have been the same for years: poor management, lack of pay and benefits, favoritism, few opportunities for advancement, and time spent away from family, to name a few. . Now compile these issues with the threat of getting infected with COVID and possibly spreading this disease to your loved ones plus watching patients suffer and die from this disease and these issues have been amplified even more giving some this final impulse to walk away.

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, nearly one in five healthcare workers have left their jobs since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and another 12% have been laid off.

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, nearly one in five healthcare workers have left their jobs since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and another 12% have been laid off. (Photo/George Washington University)

There are many reasons why so many people have chosen to leave the healthcare field in recent years, and for many this centers around COVID and the mental, physical and emotional toll it has taken on people. who put their own health at risk. for people with this disease.

The mental toll of treating a patient and watching that patient deteriorate and ultimately succumb to this disease is emotionally draining on anyone. Now imagine having to watch this unfold with literally dozens of patients over a few months. Knowing that you are fighting as best you can, but ultimately accepting many of these patients will not survive, and there will be others to take their place soon after they die. This emotional roller coaster proved too overwhelming for many medical professionals.

New territory for EMS jobs

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, nearly one in five healthcare workers have left their jobs since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and another 12% have been laid off. The Bureau also reports that more than 500,000 senior nurses will retire by the end of 2022. With so many nurses leaving the field, a large nursing position has been created and traveling nurses are being brought into facilities to a pace never seen before COVID. . However, for the first time, we are also seeing many of these nursing vacancies, particularly those in the emergency department, being filled by paramedics, even travel agency paramedics, on contract. While traveling healthcare workers are nothing new, the opportunity for paramedics to find as many lucrative travel assignments as a registered nurse was very slim, pre-COVID.

This is new territory for EMS agencies to deal with. Not only are many local emergency services now allowing paramedics to come in and fill those vacant nursing positions, paramedics now, more than ever, have many travel agencies looking to dispatch them across the country. , not only to work on an ambulance, but also in hospitals. Currently, Indeed has over 100 paramedic jobs, many of which pay significantly more than the average 24-hour shift, and most are 12-13 week assignments. Some are for positions in ambulance services, and some of these positions are in emergency departments and other health care facilities.

However, even with the new demand for seasoned paramedics across the country, many other factors affect employee retention. Paramedic to Registered Nurse (RN) transition programs are increasingly available. In some areas, in as little as 1-2 years, you can go from paramedic to registered nurse. Colleges offering nursing programs across the country are finally recognizing that the differences between a paramedic and a registered nurse aren’t as great as once believed, and paramedics are only too willing to trade shifts 24 hour work with little or no. sleep and spend time away from their families, for work in the health field that allows them to return home every evening. And, in some areas, the pay difference is more than enough motivation.

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the average salary for RNs in 2020 was $75,330 per year. That same year, the average paramedic salary was just $36,650; with only the top 10% of paramedics earning over $62,150.

A proactive approach needed

Even with these new nurse or paramedic opportunities, there are other hurdles that affect retaining good employees at your local agency. Paramedics not looking to profit from a travel assignment or those not interested in going back to school look for the highest bidder in their field. EMS agencies that can pay more, will pay more, leaving smaller, less well-funded agencies to try to compete with larger agencies that can offer more money, better benefits, incentive compensation, and other perks.

This isn’t just a problem for agencies looking to attract new full-time employees. Those looking for part-time work are also looking for the agency that will pay them the most, or an ER job that doesn’t require working around the clock just to earn extra income. Many EMS agencies across the country rely on their part-time employees to fill their schedules. Many of these part-timers work for other EMS agencies or fire departments as full-time jobs, so they’re already away from home for 24-48 hours several times a month, so finding work at part time is more about money. than the agency.

With paramedics currently able to choose from so many different employee options and locations, many EMS agencies are taking a proactive approach to attracting new employees. Some agencies offer pay-for-experience, others run accelerated EMT courses in an effort to attract people interested in becoming an EMT for their service. These services essentially pay these people to attend EMT school, with the agreement that they will work for their agency for a certain number of years once they complete their EMT course and pass the national register. . For agencies that are able to offer signing bonuses, they are willing to go big in attracting new employees. According to Glassdoor, several EMS agencies are currently offering huge login bonuses, with two-year contract agreements. Many of these paramedic positions offer between $16,000 and $20,000 in sign-up bonuses, as well as health care benefits and other incentives. Many of these positions relate to EMS services on the ground and in the air.

There is no doubt that COVID-19 has changed the landscape of healthcare, forever. Just as the hospital administration has adapted to its shortage of ER nurses by hiring paramedics, people in EMS administrative positions are going to have to find a way to accommodate their own shortage or they risk to be left behind.

Agencies that recognize the problems within their own agency and are willing to make changes in order to retain and attract new employees are moving in the right direction. However, for agencies that are unwilling to address pay, morale, poor leadership and many other issues, they may be forced to learn the hard way that their employees now have more options than ever before. previously.


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