Wake County budget plan would help recruit and retain paramedics

A paramedic class at Durham Tech’s Orange County campus. Photo by Beau Minnick/CBS North Carolina


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — When you need help, they answer the call.

Paramedics are often the first to respond to some emergency situations.  But recruiting and retaining them is a challenge across the country.

Wake County is considering new ways to increase recruiting efforts.

Paramedics and EMT’s in Wake County have seen a 25 percent increase in the number of calls they receive over the past five years.  That’s not a surprise considering how quickly the county is growing.

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“We simply need more paramedics,” said Jeffrey Hammerstein, Wake County EMS Assistant Chief.  “Call volume goes up and up.”

In Wake County last year, about 10 percent of the paramedic positions were vacant each month.  Currently, there are 189 paramedics and 44 EMT’s.  Paramedics can use more equipment and give more medicine than EMT’s.  They also need more training.

“There frankly is a lot of competition across EMS agencies across the state and across the country to get the paramedics out there that are available,” said Hammerstein.

County leaders are considering setting aside $150,000 for sign-on and relocation bonuses and setting aside $390,000 to pay Wake EMT’s to attend community college to become paramedics.  The pilot programs are part of Wake County Manager Jim Hartmann’s budget proposal, which is currently before county commissioners.

CBS North Carolina stopped by a paramedic class at Durham Tech’s Orange County campus to ask students what they think about the proposal.

“I think it’s just great for them to make it easier for EMT’s to become paramedics,” said Casey Nichols, student.

Nichols told us the training that she receives is invaluable.

“What to do when someone’s heart stops beating and how to get that back and actually bringing someone from death to life is really cool,” she said.

Her classmate, Dylan Kingsolver, agreed.

“I think that having a 911 service is really important in the world and I want to be a part of that,” he said.

Wake County Commissioners will vote on the budget proposal in June after two public hearings.

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