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J Public Health Manag Pract. 2009 May-Jun;15(3):246-52. doi: 10.1097/PHH.0b013e3181a117fc.

Recruitment and retention in rural and urban EMS: results from a national survey of local EMS directors.

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North Carolina Rural Health Research & Policy Analysis Center, Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599, USA.


Maintaining an adequate staff is a challenge for rural emergency medical services (EMS) providers. This national survey of local EMS directors finds that rural EMS are more likely to be freestanding, that is, not affiliated with other public services, to employ only emergency medical technician-basics (EMT-Bs), and to be all volunteer. Rural EMS directors are more likely than urban ones to report that they are not currently fully staffed. The most common barriers to recruitment of EMTs in both urban and rural areas include unwillingness of community members to volunteer and lack of certified EMTs in the area. In rural areas, barriers to EMT training were noted more often than in urban areas as was the lack of employer support for employee volunteers. Similar rural training barriers affected retention of staff. Rural respondents reported that they lose staff to burnout and to difficulty in meeting continuing education requirements. Among rural respondents, those who direct all-volunteer EMS were the most likely to report recruitment and retention problems. The results suggest areas for further study including how volunteer EMS agencies can transition to paid agencies, how to bring EMS education to rural areas, and how EMS can work with other agencies to ensure EMS viability.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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