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Indianapolis Emergency Medical Services combats paramedic shortage through training program

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Posted at 8:26 PM, Jan 08, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-08 20:26:28-05

INDIANAPOLIS— It's being called the largest staffing crisis Emergency Medical Services has ever seen and it's impacting Indianapolis.

IEMS said it's struggling with a shortage of paramedics but it's training new employees to keep Hoosiers safe.

"We've come under, I'll be blunt, unnecessary fire from unnamed sources that we are not covered but I can assure the public that we are in fact covering Marion County," said Chief Dan O'Donnell.

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911 calls for help come in daily for Indianapolis Emergency Medical Services.

"We average 95% of covering our runs everyday but mutual aid is necessary. That's the world we are in right now. EMS volumes are higher than they've ever been," said Chief O'Donnell.

Chief Dan O'Donell said last year, the agency had around 130,000 calls for service with mutual aid stepping in to take some of those.

"Of those we probably transported bout 90-95,000 runs. That's being done in the middle of the largest staffing crisis we've ever seen in EMS both nationwide and in Indiana," said Chief O'Donnell.

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Chief O'Donnell said IEMS has around 350 staff members.

Nearly 300 of those are paramedics and emergency medical technicians.

Paramedics can treat patients needing advanced life support services.

To keep up with the burnout and staffing shortage of medics, IEMS started an in-house training program two years ago, to get more on the street.

IEMS is the only agency in Central Indiana that is really taking active steps to address this issue.

"I know how we got here, things pointing to staffing but really we are working on the solution," said Chief O'Donnell.

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Ryan Vonderohe is in class, studying to become a paramedic. He knows the demand there is.

"For the most part, most of the trucks I've worked on you can expect 8-12 calls every 12 hours," he said. "Everyday you come in here and you don't really know what the next thing you'll see is gonna be. I know there are a million different TV shows that try to describe what first response looks like, but I think the biggest thing that makes them unrealistic is the inability to predict the chaos of it all. My shift times are set but I have no idea what I'm going to do when I walk through the door. The only thing I know is when I'm going home."

Vonderohe wanted to make a bigger difference.

"We've lost way more paramedics than we've replaced. That's the personal reason on some level and just needing more paramedics to fill that gap," he said.

He credits IEMS for giving them an opportunity for free classes, salary and benefits throughout the program.

"To me personally, it's a tremendous benefit to be part of this program specifically. I know myself and more of my classmates are parents so to being able to be pulled off the street to go to paramedic school and be paid that whole time has been tremendous to make sure we aren't neglecting our families or responsibilities at home in addition to taking on a substantial larger role at work," said Vonderohe.

"We want to generate our own providers here at Indianapolis EMS. So, it starts with our citizen EMT Academy. So what that is, is it takes folks who have no history in EMS whatsoever, we bring them in, we employ them full time, teach them, train them to become routine medical technicians while being fully employed with benefits here at IMS. And then we immediately hire them on to be EMT's," said Chief O'Donnell. "Within our service from that, we are actively recruiting. We have anywhere from four to six academies a year where these are, you know, call outs for any current EMT's or current paramedics to come work for us. And then finally, paramedics are our highest need right now. We actually just completed our second ever accelerated paramedic program where we actually took our current EMT's off the streets. And that was their full time job was to teach them how to become paramedics and we are on track to graduate those folks at the end of the year. So again, there has been no one in the state who has trained as many emergency medical technicians or paramedics than here at IEMS."