Tri-State Ambulance battles shortage of EMT and paramedic candidates

Study shows rural emergency medical services in immediate jeopardy

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – About 57 million people throughout the country rely on volunteer medical services. However, many smaller communities are having trouble filling the jobs.

One-third of rural Emergency Medical Services are in immediate operational jeopardy. That’s according to the latest National Rural Health Association Policy Brief. The problem doesn’t only not only rural communities. Full-time agencies like Tri-State Ambulance face yearly challenges recruiting new emergency medical technicians and paramedics.

It’s a job for a person with the right mindset to help people in critical moments.

“You have to be able to handle any kind of situation when you are called,” said Jeff Cain, a paramedic with Tri-State Ambulance. “It’s a hard challenge, but someone has to really fall in love with it.”

Jeff Cain has been a paramedic for more than a decade.

“You always feel like you make an impact,” Cain said. “You might not always feel that way, but the person you’re helping does.”

Communities around the country continue to struggle to find qualified people for this important job. Tri-State Ambulance operations manager Kent Stein says the job has its obvious challenges.

“It’s so important to understand the magnitude of it,” Stein said. “It is the best of times and worst of times scenario.”

However, they work hard to find people like Nate Post who is on day one of his new job at Tri-State. He said he is excited to get out in the community to help people.

“It’s nice to see people’s reaction when you give them a service and are able to help them when other people won’t,” Post said.

Post worked as a volunteer EMT in Iowa prior to coming to La Crosse. Becoming an EMT is also a family tradition.

“My dad’s done it for 35 years on volunteer service,” Post said. “My uncle is on a paid service.”

Rural communities are severely struggling to keep EMT services running because they are made up of volunteers and part-time people.

“They have full-time jobs already,” Cain said. “Trying to get somebody into this field is even harder because they are doing it part-time.”

Post said part-time emergency service workers have to make time for training and everyday life.

“For me, it was three months of classroom time plus clinical hours,” Post said.

This job isn’t easy, but the rewards of the trade are reflected in those who choose to wake up and do this every day.

“A lot of people see it but they don’t really understand the job until they do it,” Cain said. “It’s very rewarding.”

Post said if you have a passion for the medical field this is a great career to begin.

“Not many people get to follow their passion,” he said. “Now I get to.”

Officials at Tri-State say they rely on graduates from Western Technical College’s EMS program for candidates. They say more transparency about the job itself helps gain interest in the field.

For more information about Western’s EMS program click here.