Legislation would help rural areas facing shortage of emergency paramedicsHelp could be on the way to help rural areas that don’t have enough emergency medical care personnel.
Help could be on the way to help rural areas that don’t have enough emergency medical care personnel.
U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar filed an amendment to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that helps reduce the shortage of emergency medical personnel in rural communities while simultaneously increasing job opportunities for returning veterans.
The amendment is based on the Veterans-to-Paramedics Transition Act, which would streamline civilian paramedic training for returning veterans who already have emergency medical experience as a result of their military service.
“When emergencies happen, families in rural communities should not have to worry about the availability of medical personnel,” said Klobuchar. “We have an abundance of returning veterans who have significant medical training and experience. They’re an ideal talent pool to relieve the severe shortage of emergency medical personnel in rural communities.”
The amendment would accelerate and streamline the transition to civilian employment for returning veterans who already have emergency medical training.
Specifically, the amendment would authorize federal grants for universities, colleges, technical schools, and state EMS agencies to develop an appropriate curriculum to train these veterans and fast-track their eligibility for paramedic certification.
A standard paramedic-training program can take one to two years to complete.
This legislation has already been endorsed by the American Ambulance Association as well as the Minnesota Ambulance Association and the National Rural Health Association.
There are more than 300 licensed ambulance services in Minnesota, with 85 percent of them located outside the Twin Cities and other urban areas like Rochester, Duluth and St. Cloud.
Rural communities have long faced critical shortages in emergency medical personnel. A Minnesota Department of Health study several years ago described it as a “quiet crisis.”
In that study, 75 percent of rural emergency medical service providers said they needed to add more staff, and 67 percent reported having difficulty covering their shifts.
Meanwhile, thousands of men and women in the military receive emergency medical training as part of their duties. For example, most Army combat medics are currently certified as emergency medical technicians (EMTs) at the basic level.
When these veterans return to civilian life, however, their military-based medical training is not counted toward training and certification as civilian paramedics.
Many existing programs require all students to begin with an entry-level curriculum. For veterans, this means spending extra time and money for training that, in effect, they have already received, Klobuchar said.