EMT Training Scholarships, Jobs Offered to Two Penn. Women

EMT Training Scholarships, Jobs Offered to Two Penn. Women

News Nov 21, 2017

Erie Times-News, Pa.

Nov. 20—EmergyCare is offering scholarships for more than emergency medical services training.

The two female recipients will also get jobs.

EmergyCare will use an Erie Women's Fund grant from the Erie Community Foundation to pay for training, books and exams required for two Erie County women to become emergency medical technicians.

The Erie-based ambulance service is taking applications for the scholarships until Nov. 30. Recipients, if they successfully complete training, will be at work as EmergyCare EMTs in spring 2018.

The scholarships are the latest in a series of EmergyCare initiatives to train and hire much-needed EMTs.

It's also a win-win, said Tina Espin, EmergyCare marketing and membership coordinator.

"EmergyCare will not only gain two qualified EMTs but will also offer the opportunity for two deserving women in Erie County to start a new career in the medical field," she said.

Liz Handley-Samick, 23, of Greene Township, has been an EMT for about 18 months. She completed combined online and clinical EMT training during her senior year at Allegheny College, where she earned a biology degree. She worked as a certified nursing assistant before signing on with EmergyCare.

"I realized I wanted more hands-on work with patients and more action in terms of what I could do," she said.

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Handley-Samick partners with a paramedic to assess and address patient needs en route to the hospital.

"Every single day there's something different, and every single person presents differently," Handley-Samick said. "You learn to adapt and work with all types of people on diverse calls."

Downsides of the job include long hours and low salary, but there are benefits and opportunities to move up the career ladder.

Handley-Samick worked 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday last week and this week will work Wednesday and Thursday.

"Sometimes it's difficult, because of the long hours, to hang out with friends," she said. Handley-Samick is single. "But I knew when I signed up I'd be working long hours, and I can see my family and schedule things for days that I'm off."

Starting pay for EMTs in the region and statewide is low, and is $10.27 an hour at EmergyCare.

Salaries are low because insurance reimbursements to nonprofit ambulance services are low and the services can't afford to pay more, said Donald Konkle, executive director of the Pennsylvania Fire and Emergency Services Institute, a nonprofit association of emergency service organizations, emergency responders, industry and public service professionals.

"In emergency medical services, salaries are the problem in getting people on the job," Konkle said. "Insurance reimbursements don't begin to cover the cost of getting an ambulance and crew on the street."

But there are benefits, including health, life and disability insurance, continuing education and tuition reimbursement for EmergyCare EMTs. And EMTs, with additional training, can advance to be paramedics.

Handley-Samick will begin nursing studies at Xavier University in Cincinnati in January while continuing to work for EmergyCare part-time. She encourages area women to apply for the EmergyCare EMT scholarships to get a foot in the door to explore emergency medicine.

"Being an EMT is a good way to do that and there are a lot of opportunities to move up to be a paramedic, nurse, even to be a doctor," she said.

EmergyCare isn't alone in needing EMTs. Other nonprofit ambulance services and volunteer fire departments are also short-handed.

"The problem is actually nationwide and growing," said Karen Jakiel, EmergyCare foundation/government relations coordinator.

EmergyCare needs about 20 EMTs for a full complement, Espin said, and offers other incentives besides the scholarships, including EMT training, to attract staff. Those who successfully complete the class and work for EmergyCare for six months will be reimbursed the $500 tuition.

In the meantime, EmergyCare has had to reclaim EMTs from local fire departments that contracted for their services. Albion Volunteer Fire Department had paid for two EmergyCare EMTs to answer daytime ambulance calls in the borough when most of the department's volunteer EMTs are at work. Now, without them, West County Paramedic Association is helping cover calls and the department is exploring additional options, Albion Fire Chief Scott Hyde said.

"We've been able to kind of keep our nose above the waterline, but we're taking a look at more things we can do," he said.

The demand for both volunteer and paid EMTs and paramedics will only increase. The U.S. Department of Labor Statistics projects 37,400 more paid EMT and paramedic jobs by 2026, up 15 percent from 248,000 in May 2016.

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