Administration and Leadership, News

Low Pay for EMS Workers in the National Spotlight

Two new reports are shining the spotlight on the low pay EMTs and paramedics face while on the job. Those reports were published in The New York Times and Salon over the weekend.

In an editorial published on Saturday, The New York Times called on New York City and the FDNY to pay its EMTS and paramedics along the same lines as its professional firefighters. As the Times notes:

“The base salary for an E.M.T. is $50,604 after five years on the job. That base rises to $65,226 for paramedics, who receive more training and perform advanced lifesaving procedures like intubation. Though the pay is comparable to private ambulance services, it is significantly less than what the city’s firefighters earn. After five years on the job, a firefighter’s base pay is $85,292.”

The report in the Times goes on to say New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and the city maintains the work of EMTs, paramedics and firefighters is different. It adds giving parity to the three jobs would cost the city around $450 million a year.

Photo National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
The New York Times and Salon are bringing attention to the low pay and dangerous conditions EMTs and paramedics face while on the job.

In Salon, Bob Hennelly wrote a piece called, “Chronically underpaid EMTs are being assaulted at record rates.”

Hennelly noted the low salaries EMTs and paramedics across the nation face, in addition to the long hours they work, and the fact that they are 14 times more likely to be violently assaulted on the job than a firefighter.

Hennelly’s Salon article cites two recent attacks JEMS has reported on in the past as well: the 2017 murder of FDNY Paramedic Yadira Arroyo and the Boston EMT who was stabbed multiple times inside an ambulance earlier this summer.

As the Salon article puts it:

“The low pay, the long hours, even compulsory overtime, along with the stress that comes with having to be ready for anything, takes a serious toll that puts both the EMS workforce and their patients at risk.”

“The sector is plagued with high turnover and chronic short-staffing — which leads to more mandatory overtime, workplace injury and burnout, or worse.”

The high turnover is well-noted in the EMS world. A 2018 article by Vincent D. Robbins, FACPE, FACHE, in JEMS found recruitment and retention is a perennial problem in EMS.