An aging (and growing) population is placing increasing demand on
ambulance services in North America. But government funding and other factors
may affect employment opportunities. Ambulance attendants will have to keep
their training current to take advantage of any emerging opportunities.
Ambulance attendants treat and transport sick and injured people. They
are often trained as emergency medical technicians (EMTs). They provide first
aid and pre-hospital services to patients in emergency situations.
Across North America, there are many volunteer ambulance attendants. These
people gain valuable experience that helps them move into paid positions.
Many states require that their ambulance attendants be EMTs. Many of those
hired with only basic first aid and CPR certificates receive on-the-job training
to achieve EMT status.
"Trends I can see are the elimination of anyone who is not an EMT doing
any kind of emergency care," says Bruce Cantrall. He is an EMT in Iowa.
"For very routine non-emergency transfers of patients from private homes
and nursing homes to hospitals, some ambulance services create a wheelchair
van that picks up and drops off these kinds of patients. This can be done
with a van and an employee who has much less medical training. This is as
close as a non-EMT ambulance attendant gets," says Cantrall.
David Johnston works with St. John Ambulance. He says opportunities for
well-trained ambulance attendants will continue to grow. "The level of training
they must have will also increase as new methods and equipment are brought
into the field," he says.
Cherri Lynch is an emergency medical services (EMS) training officer. She
sees an increase in opportunities for EMS personnel in the next few years.
"It is a fairly new field that is expanding. And more research is being done
to verify the medical benefits of pre-hospital care," she says.
Lynch says the more training a person has, the greater number of opportunities
he or she will have. "I see very little expanse in the need for persons with
no, or minimal, training on a paid service," she says.
Johnston says available jobs may not always be in the most desirable areas.
"People will fight to work on city ambulances, but whoever doesn't get on
will have to work in the rural areas for a smaller pay."
Cantrall says smaller towns and rural areas have mostly volunteer ambulance
services. But that's likely to change.
"As the number of people in rural areas grows, and the population ages
and needs more medical transportation services, many of the volunteer-only
services may need to replace or supplement their volunteers with paid full-time
or part-time employees," says Cantrall.
"I expect there will be a window where you could train as an EMT and go
anywhere in the country and work if you wanted."
But there are many questions about whether government funding will keep
"Medicare has a huge impact on our financial status. The cost of providing
pre-hospital care is constantly increasing as new equipment and drugs are
implemented, thus making us very reliant on a positive financial status,"
"Government funding is a concern, but there are standards that have to
be maintained and, as they are, the positions will remain and increase in
certain areas. But it is too soon to tell what may happen," says Johnston.
This can be a very stressful job. Positions will become available as people
leave the field.
Lynch speculates that this, combined with rural growth, could result in
thousands of jobs opening up in the next few years. "One reason for this is
the high rate of burnout in this field -- the average career of a paramedic
is 10 years," she says.
Cantrall agrees. "I believe there is a pretty big turnover in the EMS field.
People do it for a while and get burned out and then do something else," he
Lynch says constant advancements in the field mean ongoing opportunities.
"The field of EMS will continue to expand and change as a result of this --
keeping the window of opportunity open for years to come," she says.
As opportunities in this field expand, so do the training programs.
Many services provide their own in-house training. But programs of varying
lengths are also offered through colleges and universities, as well as organizations
such as St. John Ambulance.
Ambulance attendants provide an essential service to a growing population.
There should be an increasing number of jobs for those who have the necessary
training and qualifications.
National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians
This site has a wide variety of EMT links and information on
American Ambulance Association
Dedicated to serving the ambulance service community