Local counties address paramedic shortage

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It’s not a job for the faint of heart.

“We are asked to make decisions really quickly and in high stressed environments very frequently,” Tyler Surratt, a Guilford County EMT said.

Finding people like Surratt -- people qualified to serve as a paramedic -- has been a challenge.

“Over the years, we expect a turnover of about 10 to 12 percent,” Kyle Paschal, deputy director of Guilford County Emergency Services, said.

That turnover averages to about 15 to 20 positions a year.

Across the state, EMS teams are dealing with a shortage of paramedics.

“We are roughly about 28 medics short, so when you look at that the rest of the medics are going to have to pick up that slack,” Tim Black, deputy chief of Forsyth County Emergency Services, said.

The agencies explain that they aren’t necessarily losing medics to other EMS teams, but many employees are deciding to go back to school.

“A lot of our employees who leave become physician assistants,” Paschal said.

One way the counties are trying to retain employees is by offering more flexibility in scheduling.

"Pay's not really the issue for us. I think for us it's more of the scheduling, the impact that we have on their life,” Black said.

In July, Guilford EMS plans to offer an option where employees can pick a weekly shift that matches the agency’s needs in conjunction with their personal needs.

Both counties say despite the challenges, residents will not see an impact on service.

“My chief has a mandate that I not drop the service level by any means,” Black said.

“Our service is not deficient, but we're going to make it even better tomorrow,” Paschal said.

Forsyth EMS handles an estimated 38,900 calls per year.

Guilford EMS handles an estimated 70,000 calls per year.

Guilford County is accepting paramedic applications through April 15 for its new employee orientation on May 31.

It’s currently hiring for nine full-time positions as well as part-time positions.

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