Monroe-One BOCES training EMTs to help staffing shortage

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — There is a local shortage of EMTs and paramedics and it’s starting to reach a crisis level. News10NBC has been investigating the issue for weeks. Many ambulance companies are doing everything they can to recruit new members, including trying to lure them in straight from high school.

The Eastern Monroe Career Center serves students from 10 districts in Monroe County and offers an emergency services program that is currently training about a dozen high school seniors as EMTs.

“It’s super exciting, I love the opportunities that this program has given us… the college credits the know-how and the job experience that you get from it,” said Seth Grant, a senior from East Rochester.

For the past two years, the teens have spent half their day at Perinton Ambulance, training through EMCC to become certified EMTs. They’ve spent hours training in the classroom, simulating responses and riding on ambulances with certified first responders. The students become CPR certified in the first year of the program and NYS EMT-B certified in the second.

“I do love the medical field, just taking care of the patients getting a bond with them it shaped me to the person where I really love taking care of people,” said Jennifer McCurty, a Senior at Eastridge High School who is part of the program.

The teens have also seen the demands on EMTs and Paramedics and the effects of a major staffing shortage.

“We did ride-time downtown with AMR and it’s call after call after call, in and out of the hospital probably 30 minutes a call, 12 to 15 calls per crew, per day and they’re running 20 crews at once and they’ll still be backed up call after call waiting, people will be waiting for crews to get there because they’re all busy,” Grant recalled of his internship.

The issue is at such a crisis level, the competition for these new recruits is fierce,

“Every time we go to a new agency… we get there and they’re like here’s our pay this is what we’re like… as soon as you graduate come see us and you got a job,” Grant said.

But, there is a big issue.

“When you think of the medical field you think of money so when I was like ‘Oh an EMT, they must get paid a lot’, but it turns out that the pay isn’t actually what people think. You really do need to have a passion to be a first responder,” McCurty said.

The pay locally seems to start at $15 to $16 per hour. Agencies know that’s probably not enough to keep them long-term but at this point, they’ll take any part-time help they can get.

“Some of our existing employees have come out of that program and while they may be pursuing other career paths, they’re still here while they’re in school so it is a great opportunity for them,” said Perinton Ambulance Chief Mike Hoskins.

“Despite a recent across-the-board wage increase for EMTs, we still can’t entice too many people into this industry unless they’re using it as a springboard for moving into a nursing program or a PA program,” explained Chris Dewey of Monroe Ambulance.

That’s actually what McCurty plans to do, work part-time as an EMT as she works toward becoming a nurse practitioner.

Grant is going to have to turn down all these immediate job offers because he’s off to the Navy this summer.

“I would like to be a hospital Corpsman and when I get back I’ll re-certify for my EMT and that’ll be my first full-time job once I’m back,” he told News10NBC.