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Brazos Valley faces EMS worker shortages, students at Blinn could help fill gap

Posted at 6:47 PM, May 31, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-31 19:47:17-04

BRYAN, Texas — It's a national problem playing out right here at home, EMS professionals are in high demand and we learn what is causing the shortfall and how the Brazos Valley can solve it.

Patrick Dugan is president of the College Station Professional Firefighters Association. He says there are multiple reasons why people are leaving the career field.

“People leaving the profession early through retirement or finding other industries to get into,” said Dugan. “I do think that the pandemic probably played a part in that. It was added stress and added call volume.”

Amid the shortage, an EMS program at Blinn College is preparing students to help and fill the gap.

“I think we do a great job of putting together an 11-month program with the students to get prepared so they’re confident in their skills,” said Zack Varner, Blinn EMS program director. “They’re confident in their knowledge, so, therefore, they can execute and make an impact in the field and provide exceptional patient care.”

Even though 11 months may seem short, clinical coordinator Sandy Medina said the hands-on experience of the program will prepare them for the workforce.

“We require a good amount of hours and a good amount of skills along with patient contact, just trying to make our paramedics and EMTs just very well rounded so they have experience in all areas,” said Sandy Medina, clinical coordinator for the EMS Program.

With low EMS staff and high call volume, students in the Blinn EMS program said they're eager to join the field.

“I’ve wanted to help people when they’re at their lowest,” said Justin Hyatt, a paramedic student. “I find in those emergency situations when they don’t have anyone, I can be there.”

Hyatt works with a local EMS agency and they are sponsoring him to be in the EMS program. He said he's been able to apply what he's learning in the field.

“Learning like the hands-on skills like IVs and intubations, obviously all that was new to me, but the resources here with the program has been great,” said Hyatt.

Even with preparation in the field, Dugan says there’s been an increase in mental health issues within EMS Fire and Police.

“The most recent statistics are that there were more firefighters within EMS professionals that were dying by suicide than line of duty deaths which is a pretty trailblazing statistic,” said Dugan.

Dugan said the recurrence of critical incidents, like life-or-death situations, could be a reason for that increase.

“A normal person may only encounter one or two and we might see a hundred or more over a career,” said Dugan. “Those things can kind of pile on each other and pancake and kind of add to stress and mental health.”

For any EMS workers struggling with mental health, Dugan said there are resources available like peer support specialists.

Francisco Gracia is also in the EMS program and despite the challenges, said the clinical portion of the program are his favorite.

“Going out and actually going to do clinicals and practice all the skills we’ve learned here in class and try to apply what we learned out with patients,” said Francisco Gracia, paramedic student,

To be fully staffed, Dugan said they have about nine more positions that need to be filled.

He said the City of College Station will make job postings come early June to help fill the gap.