EMT and Paramedic Shortage?

The quality of health care may be at stake as area emergency services face a shortage of EMTs and paramedics. Suwannee County High School student Jessica Tice says prime time drama once piqued her interest in becoming a paramedic. Then reality hit.

Jessica says, "It's faster than you would assume and you have to do a lot of gruesome work. That's not my thing."

It seems to not be the thing for many young people these days. Emergency management officials say the nature of volunteerism has changed.

Johnny Wooley, Director of Suwannee County Emergency Management, says, "Both husband and wife work in order to meet their obligations. It's becoming more and more difficult because of that to recruit volunteers in fire service, EMT service, or recreation service. Their jobs are primary and volunteer time is limited."

Gail Stewart, a paramedic since 1980, says, "Lack of services certainly has an impact where residents may wait for longer response times. They may not get as many people as they would need to be able to do care, and there may be longer waits in emergency departments."

Suwannee County only has two EMT certified volunteers. Out of its 13 paramedics, five are retiring. Replacing them will be a chore because Wooley says most younger residents won't be around.

Karla Rodriguez, 15 years old, shares, "The opportunities in a bigger city are different than in a small town. There are more people, more job opportunities, better education, and more things that you can enjoy."

Wooley says rural communities cannot compete for the paid positions. He hopes somehow the spirit of volunteerism will be rekindled.

Public safety officials say many people in smaller towns only volunteer in emergency response for the work experience before moving on to become a doctor or registered nurse.