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Diverse EMS workforce is good for business

EMS chief explains Allina Health EMS business case for increasing workforce diversity to improve patient care and the organization’s ROI


Diversity is a critical challenge as EMS agencies struggle to recruit talented personnel across all socioeconomic levels.

Courtesy photo

SALT LAKE CITY — Recruiting and employing a diverse workforce strengthens an EMS agency and improves relationships with the communities the agency serves. Brian LaCroix, President/EMS Chief of Allina Health EMS, explained the business case for diversity and the efforts his agency is undertaking at the EMS Today conference.

Diversity is a critical challenge as EMS agencies struggle to recruit talented personnel across all socioeconomic levels, including those that may not know enough about EMS to consider it as a career. Several short videos, filmed by LaCroix, featured EMTs and paramedics from racial and ethnic groups not typically represented in EMS. Those EMS providers are inspiring other people in their communities to consider an EMS career.

Memorable quotes on diversity in EMS

LaCroix emphasized the business case for diversity, as well as the realities of changing demographics Allina Health EMS is facing throughout his presentation. Allina is the largest ambulance and transport service in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn. About 600 staff serve 1.1 million people, about 20 percent of the state’s population. Here are four memorable quotes from the LaCroix.

“There is a strong business case to look at diversity from a recruitment and retention view.”

“We have people in our community who are socioeconomically depressed and one of their biggest challenges is jobs. We (Allina Health EMS) have jobs.”

“We need more paramedics than Minnesota will produce. We (Allina Health EMS) need to look for paramedics where we have not looked for them in the past.”

“It’s my experience, particularly with the Somali community in Minnesota, that they want to serve their community as much as anyone else.”

Top takeaways on recruiting a diverse EMS workforce

LaCroix made an objective argument for the business and service benefits of a diverse EMS workforce. He also stressed the importance of doing the right thing to grow the profession and serve the diverse populations in the 122 communities Allina Health EMS serves. Here are the top three takeaways from LaCroix’s presentation for other EMS leaders.

1. Make intentional efforts to change EMS workforce diversity

LaCroix explained that when EMS agencies don’t reflect the makeup of the community they serve, they are too often greeted with skepticism and even hostility, making it more difficult to provide effective patient care and improve population health. Until recently, Allina’s staff was a mostly white, male organization in a region that was rapidly becoming more diverse.

Allina first sought to understand its current workforce and then to make intentional efforts to improve diversity to better reflect the communities Allina serves. LaCroix shared that Allina’s workforce is a mix of staff from three generations — baby boomers, generation X and millennials, who are the largest cohort. Twenty-five percent of the Allina workforce has more than 15 years of experience. In the last five years, Allina’s workforce has changed from 98 percent Caucasian to 81 percent Caucasian through intentional efforts to train, recruit and employ a diverse workforce

2. Business case for diversity in EMS

LaCroix emphasized the business case for diversity throughout the presentation. Several of the top business reasons he shared are:

  • Diversity drives growth in the national economy.
  • A diverse business can capture a greater share of the consumer market.
  • Recruiting from a diverse pool of candidates means a more qualified workforce.
  • A diverse and inclusive workforce helps business avoid employee turnover costs.
  • Diversity fosters a more creative and innovative workforce through thinking differently and novel approaches to problems.
  • Diversity is a key aspect of entrepreneurialism.
  • Diversity in leadership is needed to leverage a company’s full potential.

LaCroix challenged attendees to imagine how the business case for diversity can be applied to EMS challenges and opportunities.

3. Freedom House has a high return on investment

The Allina Health EMS’s Freedom House EMT Academy has introduced new EMTs to the Allina workforce, which is benefiting patients, other EMS providers and the Minnesota communities Allina serves.

The cost for the Freedom House EMT academy is $25,000, which is a significant investment for Allina. But the return on investment of broadening and diversifying the applicant pool is significant.

Allina Health EMS has calculated that the organization spends $75,000 to recruit and onboard a single EMT or paramedic in the new provider’s first year. Those costs include employee training, third rider time, uniforms and more, but don’t include pay and benefits. Growing its own applicants is helping Allina lower recruiting and onboarding costs, creating jobs for people from socioeconomically depressed communities and delivering outstanding patient care to all who are in need.

Learn more about EMS workforce diversity

Watch a video about the Allina Health EMS Freedom House EMT Academy and read these articles to learn more about recruitment, retention and diversity.

Greg Friese, MS, NRP, is the Lexipol Editorial Director, leading the efforts of the editorial team on Police1, FireRescue1, Corrections1 and EMS1. Greg served as the EMS1 editor-in-chief for five years. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a master’s degree from the University of Idaho. He is an educator, author, national registry paramedic since 2005, and a long-distance runner. Greg was a 2010 recipient of the EMS 10 Award for innovation. He is also a three-time Jesse H. Neal award winner, the most prestigious award in specialized journalism, and the 2018 and 2020 Eddie Award winner for best Column/Blog. Connect with Greg on LinkedIn.