Paramedic programs say shortage caused by more jobs, not less students

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Last week, IU Health spoke to FOX59 about a paramedic shortage they have seen across the country. There are also multiple programs within Indianapolis that offer paramedic education.

Inside St. Vincent’s simulation center, the training is as real as it gets.

“They’re everything from birth to death,” said Director of Simulation Bruce Williams. “Car accidents, shootings, stabbings, the flu…”

In one training, loud music, lasers and strobe lights are obstacles meant to distract students as they treat dummy patients. The training aspect allows them to make mistakes and learn from them.

“The ability for a student to have an experience, to learn in a group and to learn from one another is much different than the traditional classroom that we’ve fallen into,” Williams said of the training.

Other situations included a basketball player who was allergic to bees getting stung, and a person being trapped under a car.

The scenarios being played out here are part of a rigorous 16-month paramedic program that sees students logging more than 400 field hours and 300 emergency room hours, on top of two weekly classes.

“From the time that you become an emergency medical technician to going into the para medicine side, it’s extremely intense,” said St. Vincent EMS Education Program Manager Megan Thiele.

Thiele says the shortage isn’t caused by a lack of students, but an increase in available jobs after graduation. Paramedics are in a much greater demand.

“People find value in the scope of what a paramedic can do, and they can be utilized in a number of capacities,” Thiele said.

The same goes for the paramedic program at IEMS. While their numbers have been steady at around 20 students per class, the demand has only grown.

“There is a shortage,” said Deputy Chief of Academic Services at IEMS Leon Bell. “The shortage is nationwide.”

A long time ago, IEMS shortened their program from 15 months to 12 months because they were in need of paramedics. The students that graduate their class usually see immediate success.

“They all had jobs when they left here,” Bell said.

Just as paramedics answer the call when needed, hospitals hope prospective paramedics answer their call, because right now, they’re needed more than ever.

“I think people find a lot of value in what a paramedic can do,” Thiele said. “So we’re seeing more opportunities come to light with that.”

Before you can become a paramedic, you first have to become a certified EMT.

You can find a list of accredited programs in Indiana HERE.

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