Recruiting the next-gen EMT

Promote a paradigm shift in your recruiting practices to hire your next employee and keep them engaged


This article originally appeared in the Dec. 5, 2019, issue of the Paramedic Chief Leadership Briefing, A low-acuity response model | Recruit next-gen EMTs | #EndEMSViolence. To receive leadership content directly to your inbox, add the Paramedic Chief eNewsletter to your subscriptions.

Banners hung from your station, first aid stations at community events and local chili cook-offs have all but lost their flair in today’s recruiting market. Today’s tech-savvy, information-driven, and mission-focused generation of new EMTs and paramedics want more. 

As a result, we need to change our traditional hiring habits and look outside of the box a bit. By all means, some of our traditional practices still work, but whether or not they’re sustainable much longer remains the question. 

Here are seven paradigm-shifting practices for you to consider while revamping your recruitment process. 

Today’s tech-savvy, information-driven, and mission-focused generation of new EMTs and paramedics want more. (Photo/Missouri Southern State University EMS)
Today’s tech-savvy, information-driven, and mission-focused generation of new EMTs and paramedics want more. (Photo/Missouri Southern State University EMS)

1. Start in high school 

Many fire and EMS agencies do, in fact, start recruiting future EMTs in high school. Incorporating explorer programs into your organization can help to build career interest, while introducing hands-on components into an extracurricular program for students that are looking to explore different career opportunities. Taking it one step further, work with your high school and community/technical college to offer an EMT course as a class option for a semester. This is a great way to start prospective EMS professionals early (and hopefully keep them engaged). 

2. Follow students to college 

Whether EMS is the desired end goal or not, it may be a stepping-stone in a recruit’s overall career development path that can gain them valuable insight – and can potentially benefit your organization in the process.  

As students enter college, they may be restricted to dorm life, or have limited off-campus interaction – especially if they’ve moved away from home to gain their schooling. Could you offer them a housing or common-space opportunity? In exchange for covering on-call or scheduled shifts, you might purchase a local residence, offer rent subsidies or supply students with in-station housing for an extended period of time. Combined with a stipend for their attendance, you may find some focused students that are looking to build a resume while they’re finishing their degree program at the same time. You may even find your next full-time hire in the process. 

3. Promote growth opportunities 

Aside from some of the low hanging fruit of recruiting students, you may find achieve of an impact by exploiting your agency’s relationships a bit. When you’re recruiting individuals who may have other jobs outside of EMS, sharing how being involved in your agency can help their overall career goals can go a long way in terms of expanding their opportunities.  

In exchange for working for your organization, introduce a mechanic-turned-EMT to local ambulance manufacturers and set up a direct line of networking communications. Or, involve your accountant-turned-EMT, in some of your agency’s financial practices and make introductions to your billing company. You may just spark an interest to become credentialed as a certified ambulance coder. How about connecting the medical students that volunteer for your agency with your medical director and involving them in some statewide discussions toward medical oversight. You could be meeting your agency’s future medical director in the process. 

4. Focus on your mission 

Providing a paycheck is certainly one aspect of compensating staff, but so is fulfilling them. Yes, our mission is to help people in a time of their need, but hopefully, your agency’s mission extends beyond “just” that.  

Newer generations of EMS providers want to do something that provides them with a sense of accomplishment, validation and completeness. They want to believe in their organization’s mission, not just work for a company that has one posted on the wall. If your agency isn’t in a position to offer much in terms of financial compensation, then you need to make up for it in both opportunities and mission. 

5. Offer fringe benefits 

Student loans and debt are a real thing, so why not offer to help? Offer your employees a tuition reimbursement plan, or a loan payoff plan. On an even more local or individual scale, work with each employee to determine what their wants or needs are, and then develop a plan to help fulfill them. If your employee’s goal is to take a vacation within the next year, then formulate a plan together to save vacation hours, set aside employer-matched money, and coordinate with a local travel agent. If another provider has a goal of paying off a mortgage within the next 10 years, then match a savings plan to help.  

Not everyone is in need of money for tuition assistance. Some of your employees already have paid-off degrees. But, that doesn’t mean they couldn’t use a little extra cash for some of their other ambitions. 

6. Inform them, often 

Starting right from the beginning, having an updated and active website, social media presence or even an internal communications tool can keep your employees in the loop. When communications break down, rumors begin to run rampant, conspiracy theories evolve and employees become disengaged (especially younger generations). Drama, rumors, internal politics, playing favorites and miscommunications break down organizations ... and employees leave. Being proactive and having measures – functions – in place to combat this not only promotes retention, but recruitment as well. 

7. Incentivize recruitment 

Some of our industry’s best headhunters are our own employees. When one employee recommends hiring another individual, there’s a lot at stake. If employees are willing to put their reputations on the line to hire another individual, they should be rewarded for their actions. Yes, online postings can go a long way, but so can word of mouth and personal interactions. By no means does this mean that you need to hire a employee’s entire family. Instead, soliciting feedback about an employee’s interactions with various students in a class that they help to teach can serve as somewhat of a pre-interview phase. 

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