GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. (WGHP) — Guilford County commissioners now have the ability to experience a day in the life of a Guilford County EMS paramedic during a staffing shortage after a paramedic reached out to invite them on a ride-a-long.

Early this year, a paramedic sent a letter to the county commissioner that read in part:

“I am a Guilford County paramedic. It has been a long-standing issue that the public isn’t fully aware of what a paramedic’s role is or what their capabilities are in the field. You are receiving this e-mail because you are a representative of Guilford County, and I think it is imperative that you know we do and see on a daily basis.
For this reason I would like to extend an open ended invitation for you to join me on my ambulance for the day as an observer. This will provide you with a first hand account of what I do, the services EMS provides and a look into the lives of the citizens of the county you represent. I think that this will be a valuable experience, and I hope to see some of you take me up on this offer. . .”

The paramedic told FOX8 that as of June 7, only County Commissioner James Upchurch has responded and done a ride-along, though other commissioners have done similar actions in the past few months.

On Monday, Commissioner Upchurch worked a 12-hour-shift with a paramedic EMS crew from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

He and his crew responded to ten individuals who needed immediate help with nine of those individuals needing medical help from the hospital.

“Every second is the difference between life and death, and I saw that yesterday, and it really bothered me,” the commissioner said.

He described that the experience was very raw and eye-opening. His shift started with one of the paramedics he was paired with calling out sick.

“One of the most eye-opening things that I saw yesterday was the shortness of staff and the impact in response,” he said. “There were a couple of times yesterday where it took us a little longer to get to patients. Every single second counts.”

He went on to say that the paramedics work as fast and as hard as they possibly can.

County commissioners are currently discussing a fiscal budget that would include pay raises for county employees, including paramedics.

Commissioner Upchurch did not say how much EMS pay raises would increase, but he did say that a long-term solution needs to be found to recruit and retain employees.

“It’s going to take a while. And while we may end up being the highest-paid county one year, the next year we won’t be,” he said. “Some of these paramedics told me other counties have tried to reach out and recruit them.”

There are currently 18 open paramedic positions with Guilford County and one EMT position.