Texas Is Facing a Dramatic Decrease in EMS Professionals Working in the EMS Arena

Data released by the Texas Department of State Health Services indicated that the state faced a dramatic drop in the number of licensed EMS professionals (Licensed Paramedic, EMT-Paramedic, Advanced EMT, EMT-Basic and Emergency Care Attendant) actually working for Texas EMS agencies on ambulances in the first eight months of 2021.

For 2021 through August 13, only 27 percent of licensed EMS professionals submitted a patient care record (PCR). This represents a significant drop from 2020 (43 percent of licensed EMS professionals submitted a PCR) and 2019 (45 percent). The data demonstrate that Texas EMS agencies are facing a staffing crisis.

Texas EMS agencies report that EMS professionals are migrating to other sectors of the health care industry, such as hospitals, freestanding emergency medical centers and fire departments that may not feature ambulances. In other cases, EMS professionals are simply leaving the health care industry.

Why Are EMS Professionals Leaving Texas EMS Agencies?

Factors contributing to the shortage include:

  • Increased workload due to Covid-19 precautions and hospital overcrowding. This requires more staff to handle the same call volume.
  • Personnel frequently find themselves being required to isolate or quarantine due to on-the-job exposures.
  • EMS agencies are facing high personnel Covid-19 infection rates, even among the vaccinated work force.
  • Hospitals are hiring EMS personnel to help ease the nursing shortage.
  • Other industries are hiring EMS personnel, including mobile IV companies, dialysis clinics, FEMA Covid-19 testing/vaccination clinics and oil and gas industries.
  • Personnel are leaving the field out of fear of Covid-19 exposure to themselves and their families.
  • Personnel are leaving the field due to burnout related to Covid-19 and the increased workload due to staffing shortages.
  • The uncontrolled patient care environment in EMS leads to a number of stressful situations for EMS professionals.
  • Texas EMS agencies are facing a shortage of new EMS recruits entering the workforce.

Why Does Texas Face a Shortage of New Personnel Entering the EMS Workforce?

Factors contributing to a lack of new personnel entering the EMS workforce include:

  • Individuals are reporting challenges in relation to accessing EMS education, and this is especially found in rural areas.
  • Paramedic education schedules often do not accommodate shift work, which is common in EMS.
  • Inadequate funding to support EMS education.
  • The absence of a state-wide education and outreach effort directed at recruiting personnel to the EMS industry.

How Can the Texas Legislature Address the EMS Workforce Shortage?

While other areas of health care have seen relief in the form of state-supported staffing, Texas EMS agencies have rarely experienced similar relief.  At this critical time, Texas EMS agencies must keep ambulances responding to 911 calls and supporting the health care infrastructure by moving critical patients from hospital to hospital.

The Texas EMS Alliance will work with the Texas Legislature to strengthen the EMS infrastructure in Texas by pushing efforts to bring more individuals into the EMS industry, and these initiatives include:

  • Funding for a campaign to educate the Texas public about EMS careers, the high demand for EMS personnel and the opportunities for EMS education.
  • Funding to support IT infrastructure to direct candidates to education programs and employment opportunities, as well as provide online information about the high demand for EMS professionals and explaining the education requirements.
  • Funding to incentivize EMS education programs in rural and underserved areas to increase their production of the EMS workforce.
  • Funding within each regional advisory council (RAC) for an EMS workforce development position to promote and recruit EMS professionals into the field with an emphasis on regional needs.
  • Increasing access to EMS education through a distance learning program provided by an accredited college program, and the funding would be used to acquire equipment and to and to support regional hands-on skills training sessions.
  • Offering tuition repayment for EMS professionals in one of two different scenarios. 1) Working for an ambulance service for one year for as an EMT and two years as an Advanced EMT. 2) Working as a Paramedic in rural, frontier or medically underserved area after achieving certification.