If you’re a paramedic or EMT who’s thinking of relocating or would just like to learn more about life across the U.S., EMS World’s State Department is worth a look. We start with data-driven “snapshots” of each state, then add a few paragraphs about regional practices and lifestyle. Our goal is to highlight everyday aspects of potential destinations from a prehospital provider’s point of view.
Average straight-time wages: EMT $12.25/hour, paramedic $21.001
State area: 58,273 square miles
Approximate state population: 3,156,000
Rank (↓): 31
Change since 2010: +4%
Most populous cities (approximate): Des Moines 218,000, Cedar Rapids 133,000, Davenport 104,000
Violent crime one-year change: Des Moines N/A, Cedar Rapids -19%, Davenport -18%2
State violent crime rank (↑): 173
State property crime rank (↑): 183
Health rank (↓): 184
Average temperatures: Summer 72ºF, Winter 22ºF5
Top state income tax: 8.53%6
Average sales tax: 6.8%6
Average property tax: 1.46%6
Median home value: $145,7007
One-year change: +4.5%8
Median monthly rent: $1,1007
Average cost of electricity: $0.15/kwh8
Cost of living index: 92.0 (U.S. average = 100)9
Unemployment: 2.5% (U.S. average = 3.7%)10
Best states rank (↓): 1411
Approximate annual retirement cost per household: $57,00012
Major Attractions in Middle America
Boy, am I lucky to be writing about Iowa right now. In a few months, when early presidential primaries are the biggest news on the Internet, this column will pop up whenever people Google Iowa caucuses. That means I’ll gain a huge new audience and might be too busy with personal appearances to answer your e-mails. Sorry.
Those imaginary fans of mine are going to be disappointed when they find nothing provocative here—no warnings of civil war or even subzero interest rates. All I’m offering is a few good reasons for my EMS pals to pack a resumé with a change of clothes and take a ride to the Hawkeye State.
First among 50: U.S. News & World Report named Iowa the No. 1 state in the nation based on 77 metrics in eight categories, including healthcare (No. 3), education (No. 5), opportunity (No. 4), and infrastructure (No. 1). I’d just like to point out that if major sports championships had been considered, my home state of Massachusetts would have won in a landslide.
Scholarship and employment: Iowan teenagers must be really smart; 91% of them graduate high school—lots more than the national average of 85%. And almost all of them find jobs, thanks to Iowa’s ridiculously low 2.5% unemployment rate.
Bumper cars and cotton candy: Iowa has a 170-year tradition of state and county fairs. What’s not to like about state and county fairs?
From the majestic to the macabre: Start with a trip to Pike’s Peak—not the one in Colorado, the other one—and enjoy waterfalls, hiking trails, and a panoramic view of the Mississippi River from a 500-foot cliff in the northeastern corner of the state. Then head 350 miles southwest to the Villisca Ax Murder House, site of “the largest unsolved crime in Iowa.” I’m not sure there’s a better place for some of my ex-partners.
Safe at home: Rest easy among the rolling hills of Iowa knowing ax murders are much less common there now. Maybe that’s why Iowa’s population is increasing faster than the rest of the country’s. Or it could be because violent crime fell almost 20% in the state’s biggest cities last year.
Europe on the cheap: There are Czech, German, Dutch, Danish, and Norwegian settlements scattered throughout Iowa, with lots of local festivals featuring suds and sausage. By the time you’ve visited all those old-world enclaves, you’ll know how to say “my head hurts” in at least six languages.
As of 2015 Iowa had about 6,800 EMTs, 700 AEMTs (including EMT-Is), and 2,800 paramedics. Almost half of those providers were volunteers—not surprising in a largely rural state.
Iowa not only offers reciprocity; it has a really simple form for it. You’ll need that plus a current NREMT card to become a local lifesaver.
When it’s time to renew every two years, you can submit national certification or meet Iowa’s own CME requirements:
EMTs: 24 hours;
AEMTs: 36 hours;
Paramedics: 60 hours.
At least half of those hours must be “formal”—i.e., “relevant to the delivery and documentation of patient care,” such as airway management, patient assessment, trauma, medical emergencies, ob/gyn, and pediatrics.
In Iowa the alternative to “formal” CME is “optional”: operations, hazmat, EVOC, case reviews, self-study, college courses, clinical rounds, skills workshops, etc. There are hour limits on some topics.
One more thing: Iowa has about 47 tornadoes a year. Don’t approach them without gloves and goggles.