Is EMT Shortage Still a Problem?

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT)- The flashing lights and the sirens of many ambulances are being met with a nationwide shortage of EMTs and even paramedics.

"I think it's worse than it was a year ago. We've experienced a shortage in the last six months."

Toby Emerson owns and operates Emerson Ambulance Service and says he thinks a lot of it is the pay and a simple lack of interest.

"There's a lot of long hours. There's a lot of long, long hours. It's a thankless job a lot of the time, and you have to deal with a lot of really bad issues," said Emerson.

He also says that with reimbursments just barely meeting operation costs, it makes competitive pay even harder.

"Our funding and reimbursments from Medicare and Medicaid, and even insurance are still at the level they were six years ago," said Emerson.

But none the less there are more than 500-thousand EMTs nationwide and just over 150-thousand paramedics.

However, those numbers are slowling falling leaving many current emergency medical personell to fill in the gaps.

And while the shortage may often lead to very long hours, once you are inside the ambulance, EMTs and Paramedics say it's about passion.

Catrina Bateman recently got her paramedic license, and says the job is more about the love of others.

"If I was in it for the money, I'd be a doctor, but money is not what it's about for me. It's about making sure everybody gets what they deserve," said Bateman.

Paramedic Jacob Faries says there are very few professions that give you a new experience every day.

"I talk to a lot of people who say, I don't know how you do your job. It's kind of an aquired taste, but it is something that's enjoyable, fun, and can be very satisfying," said Faries.

Satisfaction that will hopefully outweigh the negatives to this much needed profession.

We're told unneccessary calls to ambulance services for minor incidents and non-transports have increased dramatically over the years, and are definitely hitting the bottom line.

Meanwhile nearly 60% of all EMS personell serve rural to small city communities.