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State Legislature Funding EMT Training

Government

Medical First Responder | Image by Dolores M. Harvey/Shutterstock

The Texas Legislature has designated $21.7 million of taxpayer COVID-relief funds to cover emergency medical services (EMS) workers’ training and certification.

Across the state, a shortage of EMS workers and vehicles has created problems with understaffing and response times. The shortage is especially pronounced in Austin-Travis County, as well as other southern counties, where agencies are desperately recruiting new paramedics.

From opening accelerated training programs to creating reality-TV-style recruitment videos, these counties have had to get creative to fill open positions.

Nationwide, roughly one-third of all paramedics quit in 2021, citing low pay as the primary reason for seeking a career change. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that emergency medical technicians (EMTs) get paid one of the lowest rates in the medical field, with a median $35,470 annual salary.

“It’s an absolute crisis. We have continual paramedics hitting the exit doors and leaving the field,” said American Ambulance Association President Shawn Baird. At current rates, the industry is seeing an unsustainable 100% turnover of EMTs every four years.

The Texas Legislature is putting millions into a paramedic scholarship fund, which will encourage those considering EMS careers to pursue the job. In order to become a licensed EMT or paramedic, students must complete training, the cost of which usually comes out of a student’s pocket. Some of the most prestigious training programs, such as UCLA’s Paramedic Program, cost upwards of $11,000.

With the new scholarship program, Texas will cover the cost of paramedic and EMT certification. In exchange, students will agree to work 96 hours a month for at least one year.

“That funding allows individuals to come in the door that may not have that opportunity elsewhere,” Kristine Koerner, a recruiter for Acadian Ambulance, said.

The scholarships will favor those in rural counties and those with few EMTs, such as Bexar County, which has faced severe shortages.

Koerner noted that the point of the scholarship is “putting it to use to grow individuals internally to make sure that when you call 911, someone’s going to show up at your door.”

Those 18 years and older with a high school diploma or GED are eligible to apply for the program.

To sign up for the program with Acadian Ambulance, email [email protected]. Registration closes on February 20.

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