It is no secret that a thriving workforce is critical to maintaining an organization, in any industry, and this includes finding the right people to fill open positions, both now and in the future. Headlines and research over the past few years have demonstrated a workforce shortage across the State of Indiana, and this includes health care, with its effects being felt by Indianapolis Emergency Medical Service (IEMS). As fewer students enter and pass emergency medical technician (EMT)classes, and more experienced EMTs exit the field, the need for innovative programs to develop the workforce have become critical to provide skilled talent locally and statewide. “We saw this developing statewide four years ago,” said Leon Bell, IEMS chief of academic services. “[We] began thinking about how we could recruit and keep good students who would become good EMTs and employees.”

These good EMTs and employees were found within the ranks of everyday citizens, looking for a change in their everyday lives. In 2016, IEMS launched the Civilian EMT program targeting people interested in making a change and pursuing a career in health care, specifically EMS.

The logistics of the Civilian EMT program brought its own unique barriers, specifically with the needs of the participants. These are people who have family and financial commitments, and might not be able to meet the requirements and pace of EMT class. The solution was to hire the students and pay them to become certified EMTs. Applicants applied for the program in the same fashion they would apply for any job with IEMS. Once selected, they became paid employees of IEMS and completely focused on becoming an EMT. While the curriculum of the Civilian EMT program is the same as the traditional one, the pacing is very different. Participants are moved through at a rapid but thorough pace. According to Chief Bell, “Our program is a brain-burner. You are immersed in EMS 40 hours each and every week. You live EMS every day.” In the timeframe of one semester of traditional EMT education, Civilian EMT participants receive the entire program curriculum and complete all the required clinical and field experiences. They are then sent back out for four additional IEMS ride-outs, working with a preceptor, to gain more real-life experience and improve their decision making and leadership skills while on-duty. The program culminates with students taking the national EMT exam to become certified and move through the IEMS orientation to meet the required competencies to work along with a paramedic partner. Once that is completed, the new EMT may continue employment with IEMS or pursue employment elsewhere in the state or country.

The Civilian EMT program is already paying dividends for IEMS. Since its launch in 2016, 16 people signed up with 12 going onto employment with IEMS by years end, with exciting plans for the future. “It is a solution to our labor needs,” concluded Chief Bell. “It adds jobs in the community and provides people with a long-term, benefited career path. The program prepares students to be good employees wherever they go. It also prepares them for the importance of being on time, dressed in uniform, respecting the chain of command [and] learning job protocols. It also gives our city essential employees for a noble job.”

Those interested in applying for the Civilian EMT program should visit our job board and apply for the EMT Trainee position.