Navigating the Modern Recruitment Maze: Overcoming Challenges in Hiring Paramedics

by | Apr 2, 2024 | EMS, Uncategorized

As paramedics in today’s healthcare landscape, we face distinct hurdles in recruitment that stem from the ever-changing demands of ambulance services and fire departments. In this blogpost, we’ll discuss the biggest challenges to our modern day workforce, as well as effective strategies to overcome them.

A Shortage of Qualified Paramedics:

There’s rising demand and at the same time, a decreasing pool of paramedics. The escalating need in emergency medical services has surpassed the rate of graduating qualified paramedics. Years ago, it could take months for a paramedic student to get a field internship with a preceptor due to the massive amount of people entering the industry.  Once graduated with a paramedic license, due to the large number of paramedics it was difficult to find a job and often times paramedics would take EMT positions simply to get experience until they landed a paramedic position.  The pendulum has swung the other direction and now rather than having hundreds of paramedics apply for a job at a fire department, we’re seeing fewer people apply than there are openings. From an administrator’s standpoint, this makes it extremely difficult to find qualified candidates.  Some agencies are making exceptions in the background and psychological exams for candidates simply because they have no other qualified applicants.

This challenge has also created a very competitive marketplace.  The limited pool of paramedic candidates intensifies competition among employers.  We’re seeing more and more “Lateral Paramedic” recruitments where larger, more desirable and higher paying agencies are hiring paramedics from smaller agencies that simply can’t afford to offer the same compensation packages.

Overcoming Strategy:

  • Collaborate with educational institutions to craft targeted paramedic training programs. Find a local medical training program that has classes like ACLS, PALS and other courses paramedic need to be certified in and form a partnership. Partnerships with community colleges and universities can help establish pipelines for paramedic recruitment. If possible, host interns within your organization to create a mentorship and bond with students before they’re licensed.
  • Work to establish good working relationships with other agencies and paramedic interns so that your agency is attractive to them. There have been instances where one agency treats another as inferior or talks down to them on emergencies which then turns off the paramedic from wanting any part of that organization.  So, maintain a positive, happy environment for interns.

High Turnover Rates:

Lets face it, being a first responder is both physically and emotionally challenging.  Paramedics frequently encounter high-stress situations, leading to burnout and increased turnover. Meanwhile, the shortage of paramedics in the workforce often creates opportunity for a lot of overtime.  This can be enticing to staff looking to make some extra money at time and a half, but it also contributes to burnout, PTSD and risks of making mistakes from fatigue.  Challenges in achieving work-life balance and job dissatisfaction contribute to a revolving door of paramedic personnel.

Overcoming Strategy:

  • Build in mental health programs to address burnout and PTSD risks.
  • Have a cap on maximum work hours that an employee can work consecutively, along with a minimum amount of time off before an employee can return to work.
  • As an administrator, engage with your employees, listen to them and solicit feedback as to their job satisfaction. Being a paramedic or EMT is inherently stressful, so if there are unnecessary contributing factors to stress on the job, you’re going to run the risk of losing that employee to another organization or they simply decide to get out of EMS altogether.

Technological Advancements:

The integration of technology in emergency medical services necessitates paramedics to be digitally adept. Technology has made our industry better, so adoption of different forms of technology are essential to keep your organization operating at the industry standards.  It isn’t always an easy transition however.

Some paramedics may face difficulties adjusting to new technologies and electronic health record systems. Newer generations have grown up with technology and don’t know a world without it, but your Generation X workforce has a different learning curve and may be more resistant.

Overcoming Strategy:

  • Provide ongoing training on the latest technologies and digital tools. These can be perishable skills, so ongoing training and competency assessments are important.
  • Collaborate with technology vendors to offer user-friendly solutions. A vendor should be personable and available to make sure you have what you need to use their program. It is a competitive market with digital solutions so if you’re having trouble with a vendor, don’t worry, someone else out there will be happy to take your business and assist you with your needs.
  • Encourage a culture of continuous learning to cultivate tech-savvy paramedics.

Changing Demographics:

The paramedic workforce is aging, resulting in retirements and potential skill gaps.  Newer generations don’t always set their sights on spending an entire career with one organization, they move around more than previous generations. So, it’s important to always strive to make your organization attractive to both new and experienced paramedics.

At the same time, ensuring a diverse paramedic workforce reflective of the communities served presents challenges.

Overcoming Strategy:

  • Develop mentorship programs to transfer knowledge from experienced paramedics to new recruits. This will create a more welcoming environment and help those newer EMT’s and Paramedics that may have some anxiety in their first EMS position.
  • Collaborate with community organizations to promote inclusivity in paramedic recruitment. EMS based associations and labor groups are a great resource to both stay in touch with changing trends but also to assist with recruitment strategies.

Cost Constraints:

Tight budgets may restrict resources for recruitment efforts and competitive compensation. While economic downturns can also impact the ability to offer competitive salaries and benefits.

Overcoming Strategy:

  • Explore public-private partnerships to secure additional funding for recruitment initiatives. These can be contentious in some communities, but if you’re at risk of losing staff due to funding then you need to do what’s right for your organization and your community. The key is to be transparent with your operations and budget and to only ask for the funds that you need, no more, no less.
  • Advocate for increased funding for emergency medical services at the local and state levels. Stay involved with local and state level lobbying associations.
  • Leverage non-monetary incentives, such as professional development opportunities and flexible schedules. Make your organization attractive in ways that are not necessarily financially based. Being creative is essential, make the most of what resources you have.

Outdated Recruitment Strategies:

Sole reliance on traditional recruitment methods may fail to effectively reach the modern workforce. Failure to leverage digital platforms for recruitment and employer branding can be very limiting when it comes to recruitment.

Overcoming Strategy:

  • Embrace modern recruitment platforms and social media to reach a broader audience. An agency that doesn’t use social media is missing out, these do take time to manage but they’re a great opportunity to reach modern generations that use social media daily.
  • Develop an engaging online presence, including a user-friendly website and active participation in social media. Assign a member of your team to be a marketer to build up the credibility and brand name of your organization.
  • Utilize data analytics to assess the effectiveness of recruitment strategies and make data-driven adjustments. Keeping track of data points in your organization such as where different candidates find out about your job announcement can help guide your future recruitment efforts. The more data you can collect the better, sometimes you don’t even realize the value of data points until it is combined with other factors.

In conclusion, overcoming modern recruitment challenges in ambulance services necessitates a strategic and adaptive approach. By addressing the unique factors influencing paramedic recruitment, from technological advancements to demographic shifts, organizations can foster a resilient workforce capable of delivering high-quality emergency medical services. Implementing these strategies will not only attract and retain skilled paramedics but also contribute to the overall improvement of emergency medical services in the communities they serve.



You May Also Like…

Finding New Ways to Help the Community

Finding New Ways to Help the Community

A First Responders Perspective on Buprenorphine/Naloxone in Homeless Addiction Treatment In the realm of firefighting, where we brave the flames to save lives, a new battlefront has emerged – the intersection of homelessness and addiction. As firefighter/paramedics on...

read more
Exploring the Most-Used EMT Medications

Exploring the Most-Used EMT Medications

When your unit is called to an emergency, it’s important to have your complete inventory stocked, but you’ll want to be sure you have plenty of the most-used EMS medications on hand. Careful inventory and medication tracking are crucial across the board, especially with these lifesaving meds. If you’re wondering which medications are the most common and important, here are some top drugs most first responders need to carry and keep on hand.

read more