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EMTs speak up: An EMS One-Stop Town Hall

“Right here, right now, we are trying to be proactive so everyone can get a living wage”

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This episode of EMS One-Stop With Rob Lawrence is brought to you by Lexipol, the experts in policy, training, wellness support and grants assistance for first responders and government leaders. To learn more, visit

Like many other states across the U.S., California’s ambulance services are both understaffed and underfunded. In what has turned into a vicious circle, poor reimbursement levels hamper the employer’s ability to increase pay and compete with other sectors that offer better hourly rates for less risky or skilled employment. In fact, California has not had an increase in its Medi-cal (Medicaid) rate in 20 years.

In this podcast, Host Rob Lawrence doesn’t talk about the EMTs on the truck – he talks to the EMTs on the truck. He gets their views on what keeps them on the job and what is driving them away. As Rob notes, “In talking to this amazing cohort of EMTs, it is clear that the passion to serve and care for those they treat is there, but the living wage they receive is not!”

Recurring themes emerge from the discussions (which are reflected in various EMS industry surveys):

  • Having a good and receptive boss/leader
  • Camaraderie – good coworkers make the day fly by
  • Training – keeping skills up to date.
  • The ability to do the job; respond; if necessary, transport; hand over and repeat! … not delay

About the guests

Alyssa Catalan – EMT with Shoreline Ambulance based in Orange County California

Doricela Mozo – EMT with. Medic 1 Ambulance based in Irwindale CA

Tyler Coombes – EMT with PRN Ambulance based on North Hills California

Ryan Walters – EMT with Falck Ambulance based in Orange County

Lasalle Jones – EMT with AmbuServe Ambulance based on Gardena California

Damian Henriquez - EMT with AmbuServe based in Gardena California

Top quotes from this episode

“We do have patients’ lives in our hands, and unfortunately, the pay does not reflect that whatsoever, so a lot of us are working two other jobs, like myself, I work here and I have another job and I have the most overtime than anyone else in the company and I still don’t have enough to pay my bills.” — Damien Henriquez

“I have to work twice as much as a normal worker would have to to afford to live, and that’s one of the reasons why I’ve amassed about 40,000 work hours, I have a 20-year career but I’ve only been here 14 years.” — Ryan Walters

“One of the great things about EMS – coming to work and not knowing what type of call you are going to get, whether it’s interfacility transport, 911, just never knowing what kind of call am I going to get, sometimes you get really cool calls, sometimes you get calls that are very difficult, but after the call, just knowing that you accomplished it and what it took to accomplish is really rewarding.” — Lasalle Jones

“Do you realize EMS as a whole is a bubble that’s about ready to pop? Do you want to be proactive or reactive? Do you want to get ahead of it before it bursts or do you want to figure it out after? Right here, right now, we are trying to be proactive so everyone can get a living wage.” — Damien Henriquez

Episode contents

01:25 – Meet the panel

02:56 – The view of the new EMTs

04:55 – Time served EMTs

07:17 – How can we help you make a living?

10:22 – What’s keeps you motivated and on the truck

13:56 – What is the FTO seeing as people come in?

21:40 – If you had a rider down the escalator with an elected official, what would you say to them?

25:54 – Get involved

26:24 – Final thoughts

Additional resources on this topic

California’s Fund First Responders Website

California Ambulance Association

Rob Lawrence has been a leader in civilian and military EMS for over a quarter of a century. He is currently the director of strategic implementation for PRO EMS and its educational arm, Prodigy EMS, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and part-time executive director of the California Ambulance Association.

He previously served as the chief operating officer of the Richmond Ambulance Authority (Virginia), which won both state and national EMS Agency of the Year awards during his 10-year tenure. Additionally, he served as COO for Paramedics Plus in Alameda County, California.

Prior to emigrating to the U.S. in 2008, Rob served as the COO for the East of England Ambulance Service in Suffolk County, England, and as the executive director of operations and service development for the East Anglian Ambulance NHS Trust. Rob is a former Army officer and graduate of the UK’s Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and served worldwide in a 20-year military career encompassing many prehospital and evacuation leadership roles.

Rob is a board member of the Academy of International Mobile Healthcare Integration (AIMHI) as well as chair of the American Ambulance Association’s State Association Forum. He writes and podcasts for EMS1 and is a member of the EMS1 Editorial Advisory Board. Connect with him on Twitter.