KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Fire departments across the country are suffering from an Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) staffing shortage, including the Knoxville Fire Department.
According to the American Ambulance Association, roughly one-third of all EMTs quit their job in 2021.
Nathan Patterson with the Knoxville Fire Department said medical calls are a majority of the work they do.
“We’ve got EMTs and paramedics, that’s roughly 60-70 percent of the call volume we run, we support AMR with their calls, priority ones we run, priority twos we do not,” Patterson said.
He said EMT staffing shortages lead to longer emergency response wait times.
“The fire department is seeing a longer scene time, which keeps us tied up with patients in our first due area and we may not be available for the next call, so the next closest engine would be running those calls and be tied up and it’s a trickle-down effect,” Patterson said.
Despite the hard work and risks that come with the job, Patterson’s dedication to his job has never wavered.
“My dad was a paramedic for 37 years, I grew up around it, it’s all I did. Straight out of high school went to EMT school and I’ve been doing it ever since. So I’ve been doing it for 24 years now,” he said.
In addition to raising wages, Patterson thinks education could help fight the shortage.
“Making it more accessible as far as teaching EMT programs in high schools, doing some fire academy stuff in high schools, senior year, kind of bridging that gap,” he said. “We’ve had a big push of ‘let’s go to college, let’s get our degrees, let’s do that and get away from trade school’ and now we’re seeing that shortage of trade schools are getting the push they need now so the trade industry is really taking a hit.”
The Knoxville Fire Department is in the midst of hiring more staff, and Patterson said they will accept more applications next year.