Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Serving a greater good

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Trainees Bring Hope Amid a Nationwide Paramedic Shortage

People who find themselves in need of emergency medical services take for granted that help will arrive when they call 911, but a nationwide shortage of paramedics means that many localities struggle with meeting that obligation.

Emergencies are an unfortunate part of life, and when they occur, emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics are the professionals who arrive to administer lifesaving care.

These trained personnel are often the first on the scene of a crisis that is chaotic or emotionally charged. Among their tasks is cutting through the fog of catastrophe to assess patients’ needs and provide care that stabilizes their condition for transportation to a hospital.

EMTs and Paramedics differ in the level of care they are able to administer. EMTs are permitted to offer the basics of lifesaving care, such as CPR, immobilizing parts of the body that may be injured and bandaging wounds.

Paramedics, the highest level of EMT certification, perform more complicated tasks considered to be Advanced Life Support – inserting a breathing tube or intravenous fluids, for instance, and defibrillation for patients experiencing cardiac arrest. Because paramedics administer advanced treatment, they must train longer and earn additional accreditation. Often an ambulance crew will include both EMTs and at least one paramedic in case the critical care is necessary.

In his 2016 book A Thousand Naked Strangers; A Wild Ride to the Edge and Back, Kevin Hazzard recalls harrowing encounters in his ten-year stint as a paramedic in Atlanta. Hazzard explains in vivid detail adrenalin-fueled episodes that are the norm for this career.

Throughout his career, Hazzard was acutely aware he was serving a greater good. “This uniform, a light blue shirt with patches on the arms, opens doors. It conveys knowledge. The feeling is electric, being an insider, knowing that should anything happen, I’ll be the one called out to fix it,” he writes.

Indeed, there is a grave need for more people to sign on to be first responders. In many areas, a wave of retiring paramedics means that there will be positions for qualified applicants. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of jobs available for EMTs and paramedics is expected to grow by 15 percent through 2026.

Although the number of people entering emergency medical services has shown some progress in Virginia the last few years, there nevertheless remains a critical shortage. In Virginia, the deficit is attributed to a lack of programs available to train prospective paramedics. According to a 2016 report by the Virginia Department of Health, Office of Emergency Medical Services, some 1,000 paramedic positions remain unfilled across the commonwealth.

To help address continuing shortfalls, Virginia officials are implementing policies to help recruitment and retention without diminishing the elevated standards of professionalism the field requires, according to Marian Hunter, Public Relations Coordinator for the Virginia Department of Health Office of Emergency Medical Services. Hunter said that among the measures the state is taking is a modification of re-certification standards and flexibility in showing competency in necessary skills.

Last year, ECPI University officials demonstrated their eagerness to help address the paramedic shortage when they launched the school’s Paramedic (EMT) program, a 16-month course of study that results in an Associates of Applied Science Degree in Emergency Medical Services (EMS), offering willing participants the tools they need to enter a profession that is at once adventurous and indispensable.

This article was sponsored by ECPI University Emergency Medical Services program, offering a Associate of Applied Science Degree that can be completed in 16 months.

To speak directly with an Admissions Representative at ECPI University Newport News, please contact Jonathan Holt, Director of Admissions, to discuss degree and continuing education programs.

Jonathan can be reached at 757-849-0548 or


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