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Indianapolis EMS wants to increase staff diversity. Here's how

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Posted at 10:45 PM, Feb 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-16 23:50:11-05

INDIANAPOLIS — They're the people who are typically the first to help you in a medical emergency. But now, there's a deliberate effort to hire more people from more diverse backgrounds to work as paramedics and EMTs here in Indiana and across the nation.

Indianapolis Emergency Medical Services says its time is diverse, but it still has a lot of work to do.

"Some companies you apply to, you can kind of tell that you are a diversity hire," said Hannah Fox-Teague, an EMT with IEMS.

But for Fox-Teague, applying to Indianapolis EMS offered her a different experience.

"It was very much looking at my credentials, who I was as a person and not just what I look like," said Fox-Teague.

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IEMS says just 5% of emergency medical service workers across the country are minorities.

What sets Indianapolis EMS apart is their medical service is at 8% for diversity.

"That's not as nearly as good as we want to be," said IEMS Chief Dan O’Donnell.

That's why, O'Donnell said, they are taking a unique approach to increasing minority representation.

"One of the things we want to do, which we've done, is a paid EMT class. We'll bring you on as a paid full-time employee here at IEMS to learn how to become an EMT," said O’Donnell.

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O’Donnell said the initiative costs them around $200,000 per student but is well worth the outcome.

"It was huge for me. I didn't know how I was going to pay to be an EMT, even though this was what I wanted to do—knowing that I could sit in class every day and still have that financial security was huge. I didn't have to work a second job to make sure I would be able to pay my bills while pursuing my dreams," said Fox-Teague.

"How can I help open the doors for others to join me at this table?" said Angela Smith Jones, Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion at the Health and Hospital Corporation of Marion County.

Jones works with O’Donnell to expand diversity within IEMS. She said there's plenty of room to grow.

"It's an opportunity to look at where are we and why are we here. And where can we lean in where the opportunities for us are to do additional work to have better recruitment efforts and better retention efforts," said Jones.

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Both O'Donnell and Jones say this is a two-part process. It's one thing to recruit minorities, and it's another to retain them — and retention is what they value.

"Our hope is that programs like our paid EMT program that, that mission is understood," said O’Donnell.

"I work on the far east side most of the time and a lot of the people that I pick up do look like me, and it's a comfort to some of them to have somebody that looks like them," said Fox-Teague.

The EMT Trainee Program will occur three times over the next 24 months. You have until mid-April to apply. Visit IEMS' websiteto learn more and apply today.