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HomeIn Other News...Southern Berkshire Ambulance Service actively recruits EMTs

Southern Berkshire Ambulance Service actively recruits EMTs

Paramedic Craig Campbell, left, and Paramedic Supervisor Shawn Godfrey. (Emily Thurlow)

GREAT BARRINGTON — Ambulance services all over the country are grappling with high turnover employee rates for Emergency Medical Technicians. In fact, employee retention and recruitment were identified as some of the top issues facing organizations, according to the 2019 EMS Trend Report. And locally, Great Barrington-based Southern Berkshire Ambulance Service faces the same challenges, said Shawn Godfrey, paramedic supervisor at the organization.
“Staffing has always been an issue,” said Godfrey. “Many national EMS organizations, whether private, municipal, hospital-based, or nonprofit have felt the impact of employee attrition, particularly at the EMT level.”
To help combat the issue, Southern Berkshire is offering EMT training at no-cost to 10 qualified participants residing in Southern Berkshire County. The nonprofit ambulance provider supplies emergency medical services to the towns of Alford, Ashley Falls, Egremont, Great Barrington, Housatonic, Monterey, Mount Washington and Sheffield, and responds to approximately 4,000 calls a year, said Godfrey.
Already, the organization has received more than 30 applications. The applications are expected to be reviewed by a four-person committee.
Though costs at technical schools vary from program to program, Godfrey said the total cost for a three-month course that runs on nights and weekends as well as the cost of certification can range between $750 and $1,800.
As an EMT, individuals are trained to administer first-aid treatment or life support assistance to sick and/or injured patients, and assess a patient’s condition and determine a course of treatment. EMTs also respond to various calls, ranging from bandaging a wound to CPR resuscitation or providing a medical transport from a smaller hospital like Fairview, to a larger hospital like Baystate Medical Center.
“EMTs are essential to any operation in a rural, suburban county,” said Godfrey.
Currently, Southern Berkshire has 35 people on its roster, which includes between seven or eight full-time paramedics and four or five full-time EMTs, he said. The organization has roughly three volunteers on the roster as well.
The costs of overtime from critical low staffing has also markedly increased, he noted. Within the last five years or so, the organization has lost five employees, he estimated.
While Godfrey couldn’t pinpoint just one reason for the turnover, he did note that some have used their time as an EMT as more of a career stepping stone to go on to be paramedics or nurses. For many of those that are not full-timers, finding balance between shift availability and pay could also be tough, he said.
The median annual wage for EMTs and paramedics was $34,320 in May 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Handbook. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $22,760 and the highest 10 percent earned more than $58, 640.
At Southern Berkshire, EMTs make between $13 and $16 an hour, said Godfrey.
The 2019 EMS Trend Report also cited managing fatigue as a constant struggle for many EMS organizations. “More than half of field providers disagreed when asked if their organization was taking steps to address provider fatigue,” the report states. “Only 21 percent of chiefs and 27 percent of medical directors felt similarly.”
Nearly 40 percent of respondents said they would not recommend EMS as a career to their children or other young people, according to the report.
For Godfrey, the EMS field is one that he’s spent more than three decades in as a practicing paramedic, training officer, supervisor, and previously, a general manager of a nonprofit ambulance company.
“It really has been rewarding,” he said. “Although it has been challenging, it’s rewarding being able to help people.”
Those that are among the 10 applicants selected for the no-cost training are required to provide a one-year commitment to Southern Berkshire.
For more information on how to apply, applicants are directed to email info@SJGTraining.com.


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