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Op-ed: EMS departments across the nation continue to face staffing, retention problems

The Austin-Travis County EMS chief co-authored an op-ed for a national magazine, highlighting staffing and retention programs EMS departments continue to face.

AUSTIN, Texas — The Austin-Travis County EMS chief co-authored an op-ed for EMS 1, a national magazine. Chief Robert Luckritz spoke about the current challenges departments all around the U.S. are seeing when it comes to staffing and retention. 

Current labor shortages are taking a toll on medics that are on the job. Many feel a heavier workload as they work long hours.

In the 2022 National EMS Workforce Satisfaction and Engagement Survey, 50% of people who left EMS said they were looking for a better work-life balance. 

"The idea of mandating people on overtime, well, that's taking away from their time with their families," Luckritz said. 

It's not only that. The pay is another big reason people are leaving for other jobs in health care. 

"Nurses do receive more compensation than paramedics," Luckritz added. "It's a much older industry, and it's embedded in the hospitals in the way that hospitals and health care systems are reimbursed."

Luckritz said competing against other professions is challenging. 

Now, the department is working on filling the gaps it has. 

"To get to full staffing, we need to be creative about what we're doing, and it's going to take us some time," Luckritz said.

While the department searches for folks, ACTEMS is trying its best to accommodate its employees' needs by not staffing all ambulances. 

"On a Sunday morning, we need fewer ambulances than on Saturday night," Luckritz said. "And so, when we think about how we're staffing for the week, we can give someone that Sunday morning off so long as we can fill that Saturday night."

However, the staffing problems go beyond the trucks. 

"We have a robust community health program, an opiate reduction program, outreach to persons experiencing homelessness," he said. "All of those things take the additional staff, and those are the programs that we try so hard to balance. "

Luckritz said ATCEMS has one of the largest academy classes coming up soon. He's hoping this will help with vacancies.

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