LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- Every two years, paramedics are required to get recertified to continue in the job. Recently, many decided to not seek recertification.
Jon Swanson, Director of MEMS, said that nearly 180 paramedics did not recertify this year. This is a problem because there are currently only about 102 paramedics in school. He said that even if all of them successfully complete the paramedic program, the state of Arkansas would still see a loss of around 80 paramedics.
While Director Swanson said paramedics are some of the finest, most hard-working people he knows, there are challenges in finding people interested in applying.
“The pay is not competitive in many markets and the hours can be very long,” he said. “The job is demanding and the responsibilities are very high.”
Swanson said MEMS decided to fight the hiring problem back in 2003 when they started offering training for EMTs and paramedics in-house. It has helped create a talent pipeline to ensure coverage. Swanson said it is the more rural areas outside of Little Rock that are really struggling.
More EMTs, paramedics needed in Arkansas; especially in rural areas
“The EMTs and paramedics in rural areas are doing what they can with what they have and they are committed to serving those communities,” said Swanson. “There just isn’t enough of them.”
John Woodward has been a paramedic for 3 years. He agrees the shortage of paramedics and EMTs across the state is alarming. His hope is that people will see the career is very rewarding even amongst challenges.
“It’s very rewarding to see the impact you can make in someone’s life when a complete stranger is calling you for help,” said Woodward.
He's hoping more people will consider applying for the career.
“Yes, it can be challenging at times, but it is great to know that you’re learning the skill set and knowledge you need to make a difference in your community,” he said.
Swanson said it takes about six months of training to become an EMT and a year and a half to be a paramedic. No college degree is required. There are also some accelerated programs at MEMS and other locations in the state to finish training faster. Swanson encourages people of all backgrounds to apply for open positions in their community.
“Nearly 40% of the workforce here at MEMS are women and minorities are well represented,” he said. “We are wide open to accept applications and want representation from all segments of the community.”