Local EMTs split on need for more training

December 29, 2004|EMILY BURTON

A federal proposal to almost double the required hours of training for emergency medical technicians has been met locally with cautious support, though some in the field condemn it. Currently, EMTs are required to attend 48 hours of training and are licensed both through the state and the federal government. That number could increase significantly on the federal level in the near future.

Some local EMTs say more training would discourage new recruits and hurt an already-dwindling rank of paramedics in the state. Others feel the training would benefit their departments, but they worry the increased hours needed for certification will force them to take days off from part-time jobs and leave them without a compensating pay increase.

"It's a strong possibility some of those guys might drop off ... because some of those guys work other jobs and it's tough to get the hours they need," said Boyle County EMS Captain Aaron Stamper. "It just depends on what areas they want to increase the training in," such as the HAZMAT (hazardous materials) or mass-casualty incident training stressed as a necessity by the Department of Homeland Security.


"It's got to be evaluated and fairly compensated, too," added Stamper. Base wages for EMTs average between $28,000 and $30,000, but the pay scale should be reevaluated to reflect the higher level of training mandated, he said. "That will be a big consideration."

But the possible training increase has the potential to completely dissuade future EMTs from service, many of which are volunteers in rural counties.

"Probably it would cut back the number of people wanting to go to EMT school," said Algie Atwood, director of Casey County EMS. But historically, the state's annual increases in required training hours have not decreased the number of new Casey County emergency workers.

"We still have a good supply of EMTs," who are noticeably more advanced in their training than those who graduated from EMT school 20 years ago, said Atwood. The state's yearly increase in training requirements has greatly improved the medical skills of new EMTs in the 21 years he has been there, said Atwood, without creating an EMT shortage in the county.

A federal increase is "probably not a bad idea," he added.

Tracy Kilby disagrees. Kilby, director of Stanford EMS, said that EMTs and paramedics "have so far proven" they are adequately trained with each patient they keep alive during the rush to an emergency room. Extra training is not needed and could actually be harmful by turning away potential recruits, she said.

"We don't have enough EMTs or paramedics in the state anyway," said Kilby. "I don't think it would be a good thing."

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