Recruiting enthusiastic EMS providers and retaining experienced personnel can be challenging. Some estimates purport that as many as 40% of those entering the field will leave within 2-5 years.1 Those who leave for other agencies or who leave the field altogether often cite reasons such as a lack of leadership, an overtly political environment, poor pay, a lack of promotional opportunities and feeling unappreciated.
Examining which aspects of the job EMS providers enjoy, as well as the parts that frustrate them, can help agencies retain dedicated employees. Further, employees who are satisfied with their jobs are more likely to be a positive force in recruitment efforts.
One way to gauge employee satisfaction is through conducting a survey. Surveys are not always the most popular tool of business managers, as some managers are not prepared or are unable to implement the changes suggested by such surveys. Furthermore, gauging how satisfied employees are is not an easy task. Some fear retribution for their comments, while others simply feel that nothing will change regardless of sharing their thoughts. The purpose of collecting data for the job satisfaction survey I conducted was to see how administrators might increase employees' job satisfaction. In addition to examining paramedic job satisfaction, the survey was also designed to determine, to the extent possible, the satisfaction levels of paramedics in fire-based EMS departments versus paramedics in non-fire-based departments.
METHODOLOGY AND LIMITATIONS
Over three months, paramedics in both fire-based and non-fire-based departments were notified of an online survey. Out of 300 responses, non-fire department paramedics submitted 209, while 91 came from paramedics working in fire-based EMS departments.
Please note that this is not a scientific survey. For example, just because 34% of non-fire-based paramedics responded that they do not have job security does not mean readers should infer that 34% of all paramedics feel that way. It simply means that 34% of the people who chose to participate in the survey felt that way. Furthermore, people who are generally satisfied with their jobs may not bother to reply to such surveys. However, even with such limitations, it is still possible to examine overall job satisfaction of the paramedics who did respond to the survey and discuss the issues that were deemed important to unhappy employees. What follows is the author's interpretation of the data. Names used in follow-up interviews have been changed.
OVERVIEW OF RESULTS
Employees need to feel part of the organization and that they are treated fairly and with respect. They need to understand an organization's policies and be able to communicate with those in charge. Finally, employees need to feel they have financial security in their job. Financial security may include an adequate salary and a retirement plan.
Participants in this survey responded to a series of questions designed to give some insight into these areas. Survey questions came from several human resource management websites concerning employee job satisfaction.
Pension systems and union representation
Fire-based organizations scored better than non-fire organizations when it came to pension systems and union representation. Slightly more than 90% of fire-based EMS medics have pensions, while just over 50% of medics in non-fire-based EMS employment have pensions. Few would argue against the value of a pension system. Employees with a pension system are more likely to see their job as a career rather than a steppingstone to the next job opportunity.
Nearly 80% of fire-based EMS medics have union representation, but less than 25% of non-fire-based EMS medics have union representation. While it is not the intent of this survey to endorse the benefits of union representation, it is worth asking whether the lack of union representation in non-fire-based EMS services is related to low employee satisfaction scores.