Pulaski County officials are looking at ways to boost the number of paramedics at the county’s EMS department. During Monday’s joint county council and commissioners meeting, council member Mike Tiede said he felt it’s ridiculous that there aren’t certified paramedics staffing both sides of the county at all times. “Well, I think that if you don’t have paramedic service in Pulaski County, you might as well just throw Pulaski County to the wolves,” he said.
EMS Director Bryan Corn said he’s working with County Attorney Kevin Tankersley on a system that would help current EMS employees become certified paramedics. “The county would pay your tuition to go to paramedic school,” Corn explained, “kind of invest back into some of our employees who may be interested but can’t go for financial reasons or something like that, try to invest back in them and be like, ‘Okay, you agree to work for us for five years,’ for example, ‘We will pay the tuition for you to go to paramedic school.’ If they stay for five years, we’ve pretty much got our money back.”
Council member Linda Powers pointed out that the paramedic shortage had been discussed years ago with former EMS Director Nikki Lowry, which led to paramedics getting a raise. But Powers said efforts to retain employees and give them professional development have fallen short.
Corn explained that there are a multitude of factors leading to the shortage in paramedics, not just the county’s pay level. For one thing, he said that many people temporarily become paramedics as a way to train for nursing. He added that paramedic training can take anywhere from nine months to a year to complete.
Still, Tiede felt the EMS Department has come a long way in the past several years. “When it was at the hospital, it was they’d throw you in the back and they’d haul you there, and then when we took it over, Larry Brock got it started, then we had paramedic service everywhere, at the two stations. I just can’t see us going backwards. I think the paramedic service is the greatest thing ever because they saved my life.”
Meanwhile, the county commissioners have put Corn in touch with two out-of-state paramedics who may be willing to relocate. The problem, according to Corn, is that they’re not licensed to serve as paramedics in Indiana. Depending on which state a paramedic is coming from, he said getting an Indiana license may be as simple as filling out some paperwork or as difficult as retaking the paramedic training.