The shortage of paramedics is the final of the issues that I believe are the top three challenges facing the Emergency Medical Service (EMS).
Stories are reported across the U.S. regarding a shortage of paramedics. In April 2008, the Washington Post reported actions taken by Washington DC fire departments, “to curb a critical shortage, fire departments across the Washington region have pursued paramedics like star athletes in recent years, enticing them with signing bonuses, handsome salaries and the promise of fast-track career paths”. Arlene Barrios-KFOX News Reporter Story in January 2009 reported The El Paso Firefighter’s Association president stated, “there’s a dire need for more certified paramedics in El Paso, otherwise, they’ll burn out”. In a discussion with ABC News, May 2007, Topeka AMR Manager Ken Keller stated “a paramedic shortage also means larger workloads”. In the same report Topeka paramedic Tommy Hendrickson said “a shortage of paramedics could lead to poor decision making”. In Las Vegas Nevada, CBS news’ Travell Eiland reports Las Vegas “Officials say it’s a nationwide shortage of paramedics. But that shortage hits Las Vegas hard because of the thousands tourist that pack into the city every weekend”.
This perceived paramedic shortage is generally believed to be caused by high work load and the abuse of the EMS system by individuals who are not suffering from a life threatening illness or injury. Paramedics, trained to treat patients with life threatening injuries, often work in systems where 80% of their call volumes are to patients with minor injuries. While paramedics are treating and transporting these patients to overworked hospitals, the paramedics are removed from the system, where they may be needed for a life threatening patient. The response to the critical patient is then delayed.