Several people die each year due to health emergencies such as stroke, accident, injuries, etc. In the US alone, approximately 42.6 million people benefit from the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) each year to get prompt medical care. Perhaps, more lives can be saved by providing immediate medical assistance to patients suffering from an emergency. It has been estimated that EMTs significantly contribute to saving precious lives and decreasing injuries on-site. They’re well-equipped with the skills required to transport patients to hospitals and offer out-of-hospital care delivery.
Undoubtedly, providing prompt assistance to patients isn’t an easy job and requires strong decision-making skills, pressure handling, and understanding of patients’ healthcare needs. But many factors haven’t just made this field challenging but also compromised the quality of emergency medical services. Some of these are discussed below.
1. Skill Degradation
Like all other professionals – EMS providers also suffer from skill degradation over time. With the rise in technological advancements and patient care, it is important for EMS professionals to remain acquainted with the recent methods, trends, and approaches of providing emergency care. That is why most of the hospitals encourage their paramedic staff to opt for refresher courses, training sessions, conferences, and seminars for consistent improvements. Besides, distance learning has made it easier for professionals to hone their abilities. A lot of digital courses, training programs, etc., are now available for professionals to resume their learning from anywhere around the world. Several healthcare organizations also offer advanced training for the emergency department to keep their workforce updated with the recent developments in healthcare. So, EMTs can now survive the demands of a tech-based age and remain productive in this pandemic-ridden decade.
2. Mental Health Issues
Paramedics often feel overworked and underappreciated. No wonder many of them struggle with different mental issues, as over 60% of EMTs have reported feeling “burned out” during the course of their jobs. It means that first responders need mental health training to diminish the rate of suicides among paramedics. It’s also been noticed that many EMTs suffer from “workplace stress” that negatively impacts their productivity. This stress is triggered by workload, insomnia, and lack of proper resources. In addition, approximately 80% of EMTs face traumatic events on duty, which ultimately causes PTSD. Hence, hospitals need to ensure that paramedics must be provided with all the facilities to help them cope with mental health issues.
3. Insufficient Wages
It’s long been argued that pre-hospital caregivers aren’t compensated according to their services. In other words, they’re paid less than what they deserve. EMTs and paramedics roughly make over $40,000 annually, while firefighters earn more than $50,000 conveniently! According to the New York Times, even after spending years in the field – and facing several occupational hazards – they can’t make more than a firefighter does. As a result, many EMTs workers prefer a career transition which ultimately reduces the number of EMS providers. Hence, hospitals and government regulations must ensure that EMS workers are fairly compensated against their services to encourage more graduates to join the workforce.
4. Lack of Safety Kits
Emergency medical workers encounter several biological hazards during the course of their occupation since they’re exposed to patients suffering from infectious diseases. While lifting, treating, and transporting these at-risk patients, EMTs require protection against communicable diseases. Specifically, during the coronavirus pandemic, many paramedic staff struggled to get the personal protective equipment (PPEs) (masks, gloves, and gowns) due to the ongoing shortage. These risks have transformed into some major concerns for emergency caregivers nationwide.
5. Violence against EMS
Besides being heavily underpaid, EMTs are also victims of assault. According to a study conducted in 2018, out of 1,778 EMS personnel, around 1,172 paramedics responded that they had been attacked by people while on duty. Among them, 67 respondents mentioned that they were being threatened by a weapon.
Ambulance workers are more likely to face injuries and attacks in the line of duty. While many incidents go unreported, the rate of assaults against EMS workers is significantly higher than in any other profession. Violence against paramedic staff shouldn’t be tolerated and requires strict law enforcement.
6. Lack of Workforce
How many paramedics are there in the United States right now? Well, BLS estimates that the nation currently has over 265,000 professionals who are actively working in this industry. Despite the fact that EMS suffers from a shortage of technicians, recruiting qualified experts has become a major challenge, specifically during the current health crisis. The pandemic has affected the healthcare system to a greater extent as – in spite of a projected 6% growth – this industry doesn’t have enough workers. This escalating shortage of paramedic staff in the United States has compelled hospitals to devise strategies for staff retention.
The emergency medical services industry faces several challenges which ultimately affect its quality of services. Several issues threaten the paramedic workforce. Some of these include low salaries, safety concerns, and mental health problems. It’s important to highlight the challenges faced by pre-hospital caregivers as they play an important role by offering an immediate response to patients and transferring them to medical facilities. So, it’s necessary to overcome these challenges to make emergency medical services more efficient and productive.