BATON ROUGE, La. – The national shortage of emergency medical technicians (EMT) and paramedics is crippling ambulance services across the United States, leading to longer wait times for 911 calls – but one major ambulance company hopes to offer a solution to this labor crisis.
Acadian Ambulance, one of the nation’s largest ambulance services, is no longer waiting for new EMTs to come to it from technical schools. Instead, the company has created its own fast-track course that will get new EMTs on an ambulance in less than two months.
“No one has ever seen this,” said Justin Cox, the operations manager with Acadian Ambulance. “The amount of people leaving EMS in general is something that is unprecedented.”
The American Ambulance Association said the EMS shortage has hit crisis level, with a turnover rate of more than 30%.
Getting more EMTs in the door has been crucial.
The new accelerated EMT class from Acadian Ambulance condenses four months’ worth of information into a seven-week course. Instead of taking classes a few days a week, students go Monday-Friday.
“We’re going to be able to produce more ambulances on the street,” Cox said. “It’s going to be a big difference. It can mean life or death for someone.”
“You definitely have to have a strong mind and be prepared to go quick,” said student Stuart Martin. “Being able to get out into the real world and use all that information makes all the difference.”
Traditional EMT school can cost upward of $1,000, with varying costs depending on the region, but this accelerated class is completely free.
Students are also being paid an EMT’s salary while taking the course.
They must go through a lengthy vetting process before being accepted into the program and must agree to work at least two years for Acadian Ambulance once they’re certified.
“It’s a huge blessing to be here,” said student Daniel Stewart. “It means someone is giving me the opportunity to fulfill my dream of giving back to the community.”
“Any ambulance company that can financially do this, should do it,” Cox said. “But we recognize that not every ambulance service has the ability to produce this, but if they can do it in partnership with the state and local officials, this is a good plan to produce your own paramedics and EMTs.”