2020 EMS10 Winner Profile: New Castle County (DE) Paramedic Academy

New Castle County 3rd Paramedic Academy Class.
New Castle County's 3rd Paramedic Academy Class.

As we are all aware, EMS recruitment has been a problem for agencies across the country. Paramedics in New Castle County, Delaware, have found an innovative way to combat this problem, and for that they are being awarded a 2020 EMS 10 Innovation Award.  

In 2012, New Castle County Paramedics, while putting together and evaluating its long-term growth plan, realized a trend regarding staff and growth of the division. The EMS Division was planning to grow by 5% a year over the next ten years. What was found was that the department had not grown at all in the past five years and there were other concerns regarding the make-up and diversity of the division. In early 2013, New Castle County EMS identified areas of improvement and put together a plan to make it happen. 

Over the past five years, EMS was taking in the same number of paramedics it was losing to attrition 

  • There had been no growth in the EMS division over ten years 
  • Call volume continued to increase by 2% a year 
  • The division could not keep up with the growing call volume without expanding service 
  • Expansion of service could only be done by increasing staff 
  • There was only one paramedic program in the state which produced about 10 paramedics a year 
  • Four paramedic agencies (Kent, Sussex, New Castle Counties and Delaware State Police) all competed for these 10 paramedics from Del Tech 
  • Despite doubling recruitment efforts from throughout the east coast, increasing applicants remained difficult 
  • Diversity throughout the division remained low (identified as a national issue/trend) 
  • As a government agency, many New Castle County residents were not informed on how the paramedic system works/know it is a career path for them.  

The solution the New Castle County Paramedics, in conjunction with the New Castle County government, came up with was to create their own paramedic program through an academy-style setting with a focus on diversity, growth, residents and leadership. The goals of this “academy” were: 

  • Grow the division by 10% 
  • Take those from the community and train them as paramedics 
  • Increase diversity within the organization 
  • Instill core values into academy recruits 
  • Remove all external stressors from academy recruits to allow 100% on the paramedic program 
  • Use a third-party paramedic program willing to allow flexibility and uphold the core values of the program 

The plan was to create the 1st New Castle County Paramedic Academy. They began recruiting in August 2013 and closed the application process in October 2013. The NCC Paramedic Academy recruited over 600 applicants for the 1st Academy from which, over 50% were diverse applicants. The academy application process included the following steps:   

  1. Online application 
  1. Fitness test 
  1. Written test 
  1. Oral board 
  1. Comprehensive background 
  1. Medical physical 
  1. Psychological exam 

During the process, the department lost 50% of the applicants in every part of the class. From the 70 students, comprehensive background checks were performed and they hired 21 in the first academy class.  

The 1st New Castle County Paramedic Academy began February 2014. Due to the success of the program, they have since run the second and third academies. The department is now hiring for the fourth. 

The greatest partnerships for the program have been with the New Castle County Police Department and the Good Fellowship Ambulance and EMS Training Institute in West Chester, Pennsylvania. The New Castle County Police Department has become the “go to” when they have operational questions. They trained the first academy supervisor. When they added a second academy staff member, they trained them as well. The academy is run by a sergeant (supervisor) and an academy coordinator who is a senior paramedic and usually a field training officer. Both are reassigned full time to the academy while it is in session. These positions are posted and applied for as a career development opportunity by any member of the EMS who is interested. The New Castle County Police allows the program to use their academy from time to time. They have provided the program with their academy staff to use as instructors for various parts of the program. New Castle County has even put both the police recruits and the paramedic recruits in the same room at the same time for cross training, competitive events or cohesive competitive events.  

The training program that was chosen was the Good Fellowship Ambulance and EMS Training Institute in West Chester, Pennsylvania. With the program being out of state, it took a lot of coordination from the Delaware Office of EMS and the Pennsylvania Regional EMS Council. Initially the students did their clinical and field time in Pennsylvania due to the program in their state. Through memorandums of understanding and mutual aid agreements, it is now being done in Delaware.  

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