BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. (WDTV) — There’s a nationwide shortage of EMTs and paramedics as job postings for the positions continue to pop up locally.
Those weak staff numbers could affect response times and could be the difference between life and death.
For those who risk their lives as first responders, the rewards and benefits outweigh their challenges, including Ben Tacy, a firefighter and lieutenant paramedic with the Bridgeport Fire Department.
“There literally has not been a single day I did not want to go to work,” Tacy said. “I absolutely just love what I do.”
You could say he was literally born to do this.
“My grandfather was a firefighter, my dad was a firefighter. It was in my blood,” Tacy said.
He’s also the program director of the Pierpont Community and Technical College’s EMT Program – training the next generation of lifesavers.
The job obviously isn’t for everybody, but in recent years, it’s been difficult for departments across the country to find anybody.
A report in the Journal of Emergency Medical Services said shortages have impacted the ability to provide high-quality care and taxed response times.
“We will continue heading down this path until everyone is made aware of the problem and measures are taken to stave off impending disaster,” the report said.
Locally just in the past 24 hours, multiple agencies have posted on Facebook seeking out qualified EMTs and paramedics, including in Taylor County and Star City.
Tacy said Bridgeport only has one opening currently, but the fire department is unique to West Virginia.
Every Bridgeport firefighter is also EMS certified. 73 percent are parametrically certified. With its full staff, multiple EMTs often respond to calls throughout the city.
Not every department is in the same position as Bridgeport – with fewer resources and personnel.
The EMT shortage across the country and in West Virginia, Tacy said, could be a combination of a lack of interest, knowledge of what the job entails, or its pay scale.
“Our hourly rate is lower compared to some other jobs,” Tacy said. “We’re paid hourly differently. We work more than 40 hours a week. We work flexible, rotating schedules. For some people to see an advertisement for our hourly pay, that may not be as attractive as if they’d publish our annual salary.”
According to the bureau of labor statistics, the national median pay for EMTs and Paramedics in 2018 was 34-thousand dollars, or $16.50 an hour.
But for Tacy, the message he wants to send to future EMTs about the job that’s in his blood is simple.
“It’s the greatest job in the world,” Tacy said. “I don’t know why anyone would want to do anything else. Every day is different. You’ll never be rich doing this job, but money is not everything.”