Johnson County Ambulance Service faces paramedic shortage during high call volume

Workers for the ambulance service have less time to prep their trucks in an already busy job because of an increase in call volume.


Isabella Cervantes

Janelle Greiger, a paramedic at the Johnson County Ambulance Service, prepares to respond to a call on Friday, Sept. 23, 2022. The service explained it is a hit or miss when it comes to how many calls they receive.

Alejandro Rojas, News Reporter

Johnson County Ambulance Service workers are struggling to hire paramedics amid a national shortage while dealing with an increasing call volume.

Ambulance services reported an 11 percent increase over fiscal 2021, with over 14,000 calls so far.

Ambulance Service Director Fiona Johnson said she is now hiring more staff because of the large number of calls.

“In this last fiscal year, we realized that we need to increase our staffing on the street, based on that increased call volume,” Johnson said. “And so, in June, we went to the Board of Supervisors and basically said, ‘we need to increase our staffing on the street.’”

To help spread the workload, the ambulance service is searching for applicants to increase the staff available. But the struggle, Johnson said, has been a shortage of available workers.

“The challenge that we have had since the pandemic is that doctors’ offices, emergency rooms, radiology clinics, surgical units — they’re all having paramedics staff their agencies because they have a nursing shortage,” Johnson said. “And so, for paramedics, it’s great because they are needed in more arenas across health care. But it also decreases the available number of paramedics that are in my application pool.”

In 2020, 45 percent of U.S. paramedics reported they left their position and the field for a different job.

RELATED: Johnson County Ambulance Service sees increase in call volume

The need has been felt by the emergency medical technicians (EMT) responding to the calls. Amanda Voss-Grumish, Johnson County paramedic field supervisor, said the increase in calls leads to more work.

“The amount of time isn’t just when we’re with the patient, it’s getting to the call as well as taking care of the patient, delivering them to the hospital if that’s what they choose to do,” Voss-Grumish said. “And then also all the documentation, which that documentation part can take just as much time as we were with the patient, if not more sometimes.”

Johnson County paramedic Karma Mack said there is other work that takes away free time beyond responding to calls.

“There’s a lot less downtime in what we would consider not active time doing things for the ambulance service. Besides just the calls, there are your daily checks for the trucks. There is the education part of it. There’s PR or events that we tried to [do for] the community,” Mack said.

To attract applicants, Johnson said the service will soon implement  a new credit system that will allow incoming hires to receive a higher starting wage based on past experience.

Even with the increased workload, Mack said being a paramedic is as rewarding as ever.

“I’ve been in healthcare since I was 14. I was a CNA and just worked my way up into it.,” Mack said. “I’ve loved being a caregiver. That’s where it started, and what I’ve done in my life.”

It’s a similar story for Voss-Grumish.

“I like helping people, and our job is so different, you know. Like every day is completely different. You never know what you’re going to get. So sometimes that’s a good thing,” she said. “But it’s different. It’s fun. And we like helping people, truly.”

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