How to Recruit Paramedics to a Community Paramedic Program

You’re probably aware; the United States is amid a crippling ambulance and paramedic shortage. As a result, it’s more important than ever to think about recruiting and retaining paramedics and EMTs. This guide will highlight the steps to take to recruit more paramedics to your community program. 

While some are solely blaming COVID for halting training and reducing the paramedic workforce (this is undoubtedly true, though not the whole story), many paramedics elect not to work on the ambulance. Instead, they either choose to work in an alternative healthcare setting or leave EMS for a different career entirely. 

How does EMS bring these professionals back to the field? How can we start community paramedic programs when we’re having trouble even staffing regular ambulances? Community paramedics are a special breed, and it takes a unique skill set to work in a community paramedic program.

This guide will break down some essential steps to recruiting paramedics for your EMS agency and community paramedic program. 

Yes, raising wages and increasing benefits is excellent and well deserved, but there are many other ways to improve recruitment and retention.

Steps to Recruit Paramedics to Your EMS Agency and Community Paramedic Program 

Mistake one: throwing up your hands and believing there “just aren’t enough paramedics.” As we said in the intro, more paramedics are available to work in EMS than people think.

Think about the paramedics who work in the hospital, the paramedics who travel the country working contract jobs, or the paramedics who have chosen only to work part-time or those who leave the armed forces. These are all potential employees.

When you’re looking to recruit paramedics for a community paramedic program, you first need to recruit paramedics to your EMS agency. Unless your mobile integrated health program has full-time staff, the paramedics will likely serve double duty on the ambulance. 

The extensive handbook by NAEMT outlines steps for recruitment. 

Here are several: 

  1. Assign a recruiter 
  2. Research
  3. Engage
  4. Retention 

Below, we will explore these four steps in more depth. 

1. Assign a Recruiter for Community Paramedics 

The first step in bringing in more staff is to make recruiting a priority. How do you do that? First, assign a recruiter. The recruiter could be almost anyone in your department. However, they should understand the job and bring ideas to the company. 

Here are the tasks of the recruiter: 

  1. Brainstorming ideas. Each organization is different. Recruitment techniques that work in Los Angeles may not work in Detroit. Therefore, the recruiter should be thoughtful in their strategy to recruit paramedics. 
  2. Believe in the company. The recruiter should believe in the work they’re doing. You cannot fake enthusiasm. So, be sure your recruiter is enthusiastic – their energy will extend to potential community paramedics. 
  3. Outreach. The recruiter will help organize and attend specific outreach programs. We will discuss more precise ways to reach out in the sections below. 

Note: You don’t just need one recruiter. Perhaps, you can assemble a whole team if you have the personnel. 

Tip: Don’t always assume the person for this role needs to have twenty years of experience – perhaps the relatively new employee who is still excited about being an EMT or paramedic would be the best recruiter. 

2. Research Your Local Community Paramedic Programs 

Look around you at other community paramedic programs, or even just adjacent EMS agencies – what are they doing to retain their employees? And, beyond location, why are people choosing to work for them? 

Of course, there’s no need to try to steal paramedics from other agencies; however, looking at what others are doing could give you some clues for local recruitment and retention. 

Here are several ways to research local organizations: 

  • Talk to them. There’s nothing wrong with calling up a local EMS agency and asking them how they retain employees. While “ambulance wars” have been a historical problem, modern EMS agencies increasingly work together. 
  • Host gatherings. Perhaps it’s local training events or just an annual cookout – whatever the connection, take some time to mingle among EMTs and paramedics. What’s the culture like? What do they want? What are they upset about? 

If you take the time to research other organizations, you ensure healthy competition, where each area is committed to a stand-out work environment. 

3. Engagement Techniques To Recruit Paramedics to Your Company 

Think about it as a sports team if you’re looking to start a community paramedic program. As any good high school football coach will tell you, the best programs are not one-offs; instead, they are part of a carefully crafted plan – sometimes over many years. 

Be committed to the long game. If you start throwing out desperate ideas to recruit paramedics, employees and recruits will see it for just that: desperation, not lasting changes. 

Here are some places to engage: 

  1. Community colleges. If possible, see if a local college will sponsor an EMT or paramedic program. Young adults are searching for careers; your EMS agency needs to be there with an answer. If the college has an EMS education department, perhaps there’s a way for you or your staff to get involved. This will allow students to become familiar with your system.
  2. Be open with ride-alongs, shadowing, and students. While this can be understandably difficult under some circumstances (sickness, the COVID pandemic), your service should make every effort to be open with the public. Many students and job shadowers remember the good experience with an ambulance service. Good first impressions play a huge part in whether new paramedics choose to work for your company. 
  3. Flyers, Advertising, Social Media, and Publicity. Many young adults and high school seniors don’t know about their area’s EMS and community paramedicine opportunities. While you should take caution when spending money on ads, handing out flyers and finding avenues for positive publicity can increase your organization’s recruitment. In addition, being active on your social media pages will raise the presence and influence of your organization.
  4. Focus inward. It’s good to focus on outreach, but an organization should never overlook its staff while recruiting more people. In other words, if you don’t have a good product, nobody will buy it (no matter how much outreach and advertising you do!) On the other hand, incentivize the employees for referrals if you do have a great product.
  5. Talk to your employees. Try to have discussions with your employees – honest, respectful conversations, and ask them what they would like to see changed. Even if you can’t give your staff everything they want, people like voicing their opinions and being heard, though it’s hard, encouraging them to share their honest emotions. 

Now, let’s talk about retention.

4. Retaining Community Paramedics 

Some companies do a great job getting people through the doors; however, they have a high turnover rate. What’s the solution? 

It’s not always straightforward. However, there are ways to mitigate high turnover. 

  1. Underpromise and overdeliver. During hard times, it’s tempting to sell your company to oncoming recruits. However, your main goal should be to be completely honest – probably highlighting the potential issues first, instead of just focusing on the positive. Though scary, this method will leave newly hired employees pleasantly surprised. 
  2. Compensation. If you want people to stick around, you need to compensate them when they go above and beyond the call of duty. How? Not just with money. There are other forms of compensation. Genuine praise, a heartfelt thank you, more time off, and returning favors can go a long way toward building employee loyalty.
  3. Equipment. Community paramedics like good equipment. Updated, quality equipment will ensure community paramedics can perform their jobs to the standards patients expect. Good equipment includes updated medical gear, sharp uniforms, and smooth, safe vehicles. 
  4. Homelife. Respecting your staff’s personal life is critical. Not only does it show respect for them as human beings, but it ensures they show up to work rejuvenated and refreshed. Perhaps an organization doesn’t have the funds for a total pay increase, but schedule adjustments and increased time-off can also increase employee satisfaction.

The list goes on. However, if you’re looking for a specific idea, let’s go over some of the retention and recruitment ideas listed in the NAEMT handbook. 

Recruitment ideas for EMS and Community Paramedics: 

  • Meal stipends 
  • Uniform stipends 
  • Paying bonuses for working extra shifts 
  • Yearly awards for effort
  • Yearly bonuses 
  • Engaging and satisfying Training

The number one way to increase retention and recruitment is to build the best work atmosphere in your state. You want employees to take pride in their work. For an EMS organization to thrive, EMS personnel must treat each other with respect even during these challenging times. 

If a company can win over their staff, they will have the magnetism that continues to draw fresh and excited individuals to their EMS agency and community paramedic programs.

Idea: Your area may qualify for a grant. This will increase your ability to fund your community paramedic program and allow you to offer competitive wages for community paramedics. 

Final Thoughts on Recruiting EMTs and Paramedics to Your EMS Agency

Another way to increase recruitment – improve connections in your community. Often, paramedics come from another area of healthcare or public safety. Hospitals, police departments, and local rehab facilities are all organizations that can help your EMS agency grow.

To establish partnerships, organizations need to work together. Unfortunately, many groups are siloed and do not interact with other organizations. Julota has developed software that unites communities. 

Julota offers a community paramedicine system that gives you a streamlined documentation platform. Instead of a bunch of different reports, Julota builds a cohesive record. Also, Julota is HIPPA compliant, so you can safely share health care information with other qualified providers. 

For more information, reach out to Julota. They will answer your questions and set you up with a straightforward demonstration.