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EMSA Medical Director Tells City Councilors Recruiting Paramedics Is Harder Than Ever

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There’s a nationwide shortage of paramedics, and there’s no exception to that in Tulsa.

According to the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration, the nation will have 42,000 fewer paramedics and emergency medical technicians than it needs by 2030. EMSA is currently 12 paramedics short of its staffing goal and keeps job postings up 365 days a year.

EMSA Medical Director Dr. Jeffrey Goodloe told Tulsa city councilors last week it’s never been as hard to recruit paramedics as it is right now. Neighboring states are competing for the same candidates, and the proposition of working with patients whose medical conditions may cause them to assault you at work has not been appealing for many. And then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

"It's a little bit difficult when you go recruiting and you talk to people about, 'How would you like to sign up to take care of a lot of ill and highly infectious people? And vaccines are wonderful and masks are wonderful but there is still some risk that you could get this illness yourself,' and certainly during the time before we had vaccines. And as it turns out, not everybody wants to sign up for that," Goodloe said.

Goodloe said the problem will take time to solve because full training of a paramedic can take two years.

"It is a challenge that we are short today, and we are going to continue to be short for a while because there is no just sprinkle some pixie dust and here's a whole cadre of paramedics. We're ultimately going to have to train them locally, I think, to get to the numbers that we all want to see," Goodloe said.

Goodloe plans to come back to the city council in the coming weeks with proposals for bolstering EMSA’s ranks. EMSA is keeping response times in eastern Oklahoma communities it serves near compliance, but it is seeing more COVID patients again.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.
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