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Ambulance Volunteer Crisis: Who Should Fill the Recruitment Gap?

By Allison G. S. Knox
Contributor, EDM Digest

Some ambulance companies across the United States have an excellent retention rate with volunteers who are willing to do the work. But many volunteer ambulance agencies are having extraordinary trouble trying to staff their ambulances.

Where Are the Ambulance Volunteers Now?

In past decades before the current volunteer crisis reared its ugly head, volunteer fire departments were bursting at the seams with individuals eager to hop on trucks and save lives. The need was certainly there and people were eager to help their community.

Today, it can be very hard for an ambulance company to find volunteers willing and able to work on the ambulances, let alone without a salary.

The volunteer pool is drying up before our eyes. In an economy in which work is often hard to come by, agencies struggle because volunteers need paying jobs and cannot devote the time ambulance services need during the workweek. A volunteer ambulance service in Virginia recently closed because it did not have enough volunteers.

Recruiting Ambulance Volunteers from CERT Teams

Despite these realities, there are a few ways to improve the volunteer retention rate. For example, Community Emergency Response Teams (CERTs) are a new idea that has swept the country. These teams are great venues to learn about emergency management and disaster preparation. Volunteer ambulance services should recruit individuals from CERTs who are willing to help their respective communities with 911 calls.

These individuals have something in common with volunteers from the 1940s and 1950s; they want to help their community. Volunteer agencies shouldn’t try reinventing the wheel when it comes to recruitment. Instead, they should try to recruit people they already know have an interest in working emergencies.

Recruiting Volunteers from Emergency Management Classes and Other Organizations

There are many classes throughout the country that teach aspects of emergency management. The students who take these classes clearly have an interest in working emergencies, so they are a good source for potential volunteers.

Similarly, volunteer agencies should develop partnerships with local schools and recruit directly from the classes. Boy Scouts of America, American Red Cross Lifeguard certification classes and Emergency Medical Technician classes could be suitable recruitment pools.

By being creative and seeking volunteers who demonstrate a clear interest in helping others,  ambulance agencies will find it easier to solve their staff shortages. This practice will also benefit communities by helping local citizens get medical treatment or other aid more quickly.

Allison G. S. Knox teaches in the fire science and emergency management departments at American Military University and American Public University. Focusing on emergency management and emergency medical services policy, she often writes and advocates about these issues. Allison serves as the At-Large Director of the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians and as Chancellor of the Southeast Region on the Board of Trustees with Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society in Social Sciences. She is also chair of Pi Gamma Mu’s Leadership Development Program. Prior to teaching, Allison worked for a member of Congress in Washington, D.C. and in a Level One trauma center emergency department. She is an emergency medical technician and holds multiple graduate degrees.

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