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Creating jobs and feeding new EMTs into the workforce

AMR’s award-winning earn-while-you-learn programs allow previously untrained candidates to became certified as EMTs in 12 weeks


AMR’s recent graduating class from its Nashua earn-while-you-learn program. The award winning, 12-week program, allows previously untrained citizens to became certified as EMTs while being compensated as a fulltime employee from day 1.

Photo/Courtesy of AMR

A program initially started to build an economic bridge for people wanting to start a new career has helped aid with current staffing shortages nationwide. AMR’s earn-while-you-learn program has trained nearly 1,000 new clinicians with no prior EMS training to become EMTs.

The earn-while-you-learn program started in 2018 at the Buffalo, New York location of American Medical Response (a Global Medical Response company).

“Nationwide, we just went over 1,000 trained EMTs, which equates to 500 ambulances on the street because of the earn-while-you-learn program,” Tom Maxian, Global Medical Response’s Northeast Regional President told me. “That is precisely what this country needs coming out of a pandemic.”

“Candidates apply for employment, and we hire them as full-time employees,” Maxian, a paramedic with 35 years of experience, said. “Anyone in the community that is interested can apply. They get hired full-time, paid full-time while they are students in our academy, and we cover all costs and lab fees.”

Maxian added that in some locations, AMR utilizes in-house educators to run the educational program, and in others, they use local educational facilities that are already in place. Either way, costs are covered and employees are being paid while they train.

Chris Stawasz, GMR’s regional director of government affairs, told me GMR has received positive buy-in from elected officials, including mayors and county commissioners in areas where the program is offered.

“They all embrace the idea of giving people jobs and a certified life skill,” Stawasz said. “This is a win-win. This has helped address the need with the shortage of EMS personnel.”

Relieves the burden

“The program has been well received by managers and current employees,” Maxian said. “It reduces the burden on other folks with the more EMTs we get on the road.”

Stawasz and Maxian agreed that from the day the employee is hired, they are part of the family.

“They come out knowing people they rode with, did clinicals with – they are part of the family,” Stawasz said. “They are embraced by the staff.”

At the completion of the courses, a graduation ceremony is held for the new EMTs at fire stations and other notable places in the community, including the 72 stone steps leading to the entrance of the Philadelphia Museum of Art in Philadelphia, known as the Rocky steps.

“There is an incredible level of excitement when the mayor of the city hands you your diploma,” Stawasz said. “People bring their families and pets.”

“It has been a privilege to work alongside these future lifesavers who have demonstrated a strong commitment to our citizens and community,” said Manchester Deputy Fire Chief Ryan Cashin. “Taking on this role with AMR is a fantastic opportunity to succeed and guide you on a lifelong career path in EMS.”


AMR’s recent graduating class from its Manchester earn-while-you-learn program.

Photo/Courtesy of AMR

Fostering diversity

The earn-while-you-learn program fills many needs, according to Maxian.

“We put EMTs into the system,” Maxian said. “Historically, we hired certified clinicians. We were just redistributing from an existing pool.”

Maxian explained that process did nothing to help the need with clinician and staffing shortages.

“Now, we are feeding new EMTs in the system. We are creating jobs, where they previously didn’t exist,” Maxian said.

Maxian added that GMR is contributing to workforce diversity. He explained that 50% of the trainees are woman and 50% are people of color.

In February of 2022, New Hampshire’s first graduating class of the earn-while-you-learn program included 16 students, with 56% of the class being female.

Investing in the future

Nashua, New Hampshire; Dayton, Ohio; Buffalo, New York; St. Louis, Missouri; and Springfield, Massachusetts, are just some locations with earn-while-you-learn programs.

AMR launched its first paramedic program in Springfield and recently wrapped up its first class.

“Our Springfield location had a 100% course completion, national registry and state certification,” Maxian said.

“Many of the students in the paramedic program were previously earn-while-you-learn EMTs,” Maxian said. To help employees attend class, “we dramatically reduce the workload, take on all the cost of the paramedic program,” he explained.

“The key is to make a fulltime employee with benefits to pay the bills, rent and buy food,” Stawasz, a paramedic with 38 years of experience said. “I was a kid when I took two years out of my life. People need that fulltime employment.”

“I think that the key is to be fully committed to making a large investment up front with a delay in return,” Maxian said. “It takes some time to get the program up and running.”

Award-winning program

AMR’s earn-while-you-learn program was awarded the American Ambulance Association AMBY award in 2019 in the Employee Programs category. The original goal was to hire and train 50 individuals, but the now 12-week program has far exceeded that number.

“We are honored to be recognized with an AAA AMBY Award,” Maxian said in a press release. “The program has enabled AMR to create EMS career opportunities for people who, without the program, could not make this career transition.”


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Todd Bowman is a nationally registered and flight paramedic with more than 18 years of prehospital experience in Maryland. He attended Hagerstown Community College for his paramedic education and later obtained his bachelor’s degree in journalism from Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. His experience ranges from rural, metro and aviation-based EMS. He is an experienced EMS manager, public information officer and instructor. Follow him on social media at @_toddbowman.