KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A paramedic shortage has metro fire departments using incentives to attract qualified candidates.
Gladstone Fire Department is currently down five paramedic positions and the agency is trying to make the job attractive to possible applicants.
"In Gladstone, if you have your paramedic license and you're hired, we'll pay you up to $4,000 just for having that certificate, that license," Gladstone EMS Chief Shawn Rulon said. "If you're in the paramedic program and you're in your field clinicals, we'll pay you to finish those clinicals out".
Rulon said the shortage is not new and was around before the pandemic. He points to increased career opportunities and fierce competition among Fire/EMS departments as some reasons for the lack of qualified candidates.
The issue is not isolated to Gladstone and is also felt in larger agencies like the Kansas City Fire Department.
Deputy Chief John Baker said the agency made changes to attract candidates.
"Paramedic position is the only position that we allow people who live outside of the city to apply, so even someone who lives in another state can apply," Baker said. "Now they are required to move within the city limits nine months after they've been hired, but we'll accept applications from even out of state residents to try and get more applicants in."
Baker estimated that KCFD would be down between five to 10 paramedics once a new class has graduated and gone through training, but added that the public will not feel the impact of any staff shortage.
"The biggest impact is within our own system that we have and the people that we have working here are working extra hours, overtime shifts, etc. trying to fill the staffing needs," Baker said.
Baker said the department has taken a proactive approach to attracting candidates by partnering with UMKC School of Medicine's paramedic and EMT program to bring in new candidates. KCFD is also paying for classes for current employees who go through the program.
Rulon admitted that the job is tough and requires exposure to various weather elements as well as manual and physical labor. However, he added that being a paramedic is a rewarding career and departments like his are offering help with education and tuition to attract a new generation of paramedics.