Allison G. S. Knox


By Allison G. S. Knox
Contributor, EDM Digest

Across the country, Emergency Medical Services agencies have reported problems with the recruitment and retention of volunteers. The problem is widespread, with numerous hypotheses suggesting potential factors contributing to the shortage.

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In parts of the country, the shortage is particularly serious because it means that some localities may not have the resources available to quickly and efficiently respond to 911 emergencies. Understanding the factors causing this shortage, however, is critical to correcting it.

The Montana legislature recently passed a bill to examine this issue in depth through a comprehensive study to understand the mechanics of the problem and why it is occurring in Montana. Other states should follow Montana’s lead and create similar studies that may very well help resolve some of the most basic recruitment and retention issues. In doing so, more states might be able to provide a conceptual framework to resolve this problem in a comprehensive fashion.

Montana’s Legislation Sets Up Study of Volunteer Services

According to the wording of the bill, “A joint resolution of the Senate and the House of Representatives of the State of Montana requesting an interim study of Emergency Medical Service and volunteer fire prevention service systems; requesting that the shortages, training requirements, equipment needs and compensation; and requesting that strategies for enhancing viability and sustainability of the services be included in a study report.”

This study appears to be comprehensive in that it will look into the various factors that contribute to volunteer recruitment and retention problems. More importantly, the study could help to identify other previously unknown factors that may affect volunteer recruitment and retention. The study is particularly important in tightening these areas of public safety throughout Montana.

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Policy Diffusion Fosters Policy Development across the US

Political scientists have argued that a component of policy development can come in the form of policy diffusion, where policies move across the country as states get ideas for policy development and then develop similar policies and legislation. According to an article in Public Administration Review, the hope is that similar policies and legislation will be enacted in other states that seek to emulate what Montana does to remedy the situation.

It would be prudent for other states to follow Montana’s lead and create similar studies to better understand recruitment and retention. Without such investigations, it is difficult to understand some of the factors that put EMS agencies at a disadvantage. More importantly, these studies might highlight similarities across the country whereby federal legislation or grants could also help to solve the recruitment and retention problem.