The US healthcare system has been grappling with staff retention problems since 2020. Overall, emergency medical service (EMS) providers have been hit the hardest.

According to a 2021 study by the American Ambulance Association, US-based emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics had overall employee turnover rates as high as 30%. For context, a 25% employee turnover rate means that an organization’s total staff are replaced every four years.

What is particularly worrisome is that those who remain employed tend to bear the strain and pressure of these high turnover rates. The employees who are left behind almost always take on larger workloads and face even more stress working a sometimes thankless job.

Why Are EMS Workers Quitting Their Jobs?

The 2021 American Ambulance Association study found that, among EMS employees who voluntarily left their jobs, the most common reason was a desire for a “career or occupation change” (43%), followed by “dissatisfaction with pay and/or benefits” (31%) and “school” (26%). Other reasons cited were, “dissatisfaction with career advancement opportunities” (25%), “moved out of area” (19%) and “dissatisfaction with organization” (16%).

The study’s scope also covered part of the pandemic, with public health emergencies like COVID-19 accounting for 7% of voluntary turnover, whereas retirement only accounted for 5%.

The cited reasons only tell part of the story. Reading between the lines, most of the reasons can be safely attributed to the physical and psychological hardships faced by EMS workers, coupled with the relatively low compensation and limited career advancement outlook. Other serious issues common to all healthcare workers like PPE fatigue and compassion fatigue are also likely contributors to high turnover rates among EMS workers.

Given all this, EMS providers need to consider solutions that address the most commonly cited reasons for quitting.  Comprehensive solutions such as Traumasoft promise to take some of the pressure off of EMS staff while enabling better cash flow for organizations. This enables EMS providers to provide meaningful retention incentives for employees.

How Can EMS Retention Rates Be Improved?

The solution to improving retention in most organizations is simple: compensate workers better. This also has the knock-on benefit of helping organizations attract better talent. However, EMS providers face several challenges that keep them from raising compensation. Most notably, government reimbursement rates as well as insurance caps effectively limit the revenue that EMS providers could collect. Consequently, EMS providers that want to increase employee compensation without sacrificing service levels have to look for novel ways to cut costs and improve efficiency.

One strategy is through targeted investments in information technology. For example, Traumasoft’s EMS management system has enabled EMS providers to improve efficiency throughout many of their processes, allowing them to invest more in employee compensation and retention programs. What’s more, our system also helps reduce much of the stress that are typically present in EMS jobs.

Here’s how Traumasoft is helping EMS organizations improve their retention rates:

1.) Reduces Real Estate Costs Through Virtual Offices

Real estate expenses can quickly consume an EMS provider’s budget, especially if they’re located in an area with high property values. To address this issue, Traumasoft enables the creation of virtual EMS offices, which allows providers to save on office expenses. These virtual offices also enable EMS organizations to offer more flexible work arrangements for employees who aren’t in the field.

One such EMS provider that has taken advantage of this feature is Allegiance, the largest privately owned ambulance service based in Texas. “When COVID hit, we were able to allow billers to work remotely, from home, and the transition was easy with Traumasoft; in fact, I’m not sure if we would have been able to do it with our previous software platform,” recounted Allegiance’s President. “Now, with the staffing shortage and factors like Amazon paying folks a starting wage of $27/hr, we were able to move our dispatch/communication center to rural areas where we could find workers. In fact, we are working towards a future where dispatchers will be able to work remotely from home, and Traumasoft is a huge piece of this,” he added.

2.) Lightens Workloads with Smart Automation and Communication Tools

Without modern EMS tools, crews often find that they sometimes spend more time filling out paperwork and reporting to the office than saving lives. More time spent doing mundane and repetitive tasks grind down workers and affect their mental health, potentially leading to attrition.

Traumasoft’s EMS management system builds on the lessons learned from earlier generations of EMS software. Its different components are designed to automate routine tasks and streamline workflow and communication throughout the entire EMS organization. This effectively allows EMTs and paramedics to spend more of their time providing vital emergency care. ePCR reports can be filled out in moments with instant accessibility to Billing and other departments.

Automation and streamlined processes significantly reduce documentation errors, the need to perform redundant tasks, and the stress that comes with data reconciliation. It also removes the need to orally communicate information with other departments while also improving data accuracy. This efficient work environment improves employee morale, satisfaction, and ultimately retention.

3.) Fosters Camaraderie and Collaboration

Fostering camaraderie is important for maintaining morale and essential for employee retention. Traumasoft offers a few ways to cultivate positive collaboration to increase employee engagement and collaboration.

Traumasoft’s CORE EMS Mobile App keeps employees well connected by giving them a virtual platform to securely communicate with one another. It boosts employee interactions, a vital social aspect especially for those who are working from home or other geographic areas. The app even allows employees to request substitutions and trade shifts in just a few taps.

Traumasoft also has an instant messaging feature designed for field communications. The Mobile Data Terminal (MDT), which is part of its EMS Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) System, enables crews and dispatchers to communicate with each other and post important updates for everyone or for certain groups.

4.) Helps EMS Providers Recognize Employee Performance

Employees need to know that their efforts are appreciated, and their hard work should be rewarded. Otherwise, they will eventually seek other opportunities. Unfortunately, the hectic pace of EMS work often leaves little time for managers to evaluate and recognize individual or team contributions.

Traumasoft’s EMS management system can generate performance reports for managers to reward outstanding performance. Further, the system’s transparent and accurate People Operations tools make it easy for managers to manage human resource issues. Its CORE mobile app mentioned earlier also makes it simple to take polls, ask questions concerning performance and morale and maintain an internal one-on-one communication with each employee.

Why Employee Retention is ESSENTIAL for EMS Organizations

Employee retention is an extremely serious issue for EMS organizations. While there is a very real need for EMS organizations to attract new crews, dispatchers and office personnel, many are putting more resources towards improving employee retention and reducing voluntary turnover rates, like those described above. Here are several important reasons:

1.) There Are Very Few Applicants for EMS Positions

There has been a steep decline in the number of individuals who want to work as EMTs and paramedics, even before the pandemic. Thanks to job review sites and social media, the extreme working conditions of EMS are now public knowledge, which deter otherwise qualified individuals from a career in emergency services. In recent years, the problem has worsened, with interest in becoming a paramedic, EMT, or ambulance driver reaching record lows.

The problem is so acute that the 911 system has suffered a crippling blow in many parts of the country. Some EMS training centers and organizations have even shut down completely due to a lack of interest. This is one of the main reasons why many EMS providers are choosing to focus on employee retention.

2.) EMS Recruitment Is Expensive

Employee recruitment and development can be an expensive process. Newly recruited drivers and paramedics have to be trained and need at least a few months to be brought up to speed. Facilitating training and onboarding processes also has associated costs that not all EMS organizations are equipped to pay.

With the supply of interested applicants at an all-time low, the cost of recruitment has increased even further. Now, sizable sign-on bonuses are almost mandatory for EMS organizations, which can be a poor investment with high rates of resignations among new employees.

3.) Better Retention Improves Healthcare Outcomes

The experience and knowledge loss associated with high turnover rates can have serious implications for any organization. With healthcare providers, the consequences of high turnover and low retention often result in poor healthcare outcomes that affects both individuals and communities while potentially bringing crippling liability lawsuits.

4.) Higher Retention Improves Recruitment Efforts

Retention and recruitment are directly related. EMS organizations with high retention rates are likely to attract larger numbers of interested applicants because qualified talents are more likely to conclude that the work conditions are better in high-retention rate organizations. This is critical given the low number of individuals currently applying for EMS positions.

5.) Implementing Retention Programs Improve Morale

Re-channeling funds meant for recruitment, signing bonuses, and other related projects into retention programs that benefit existing employees helps boost morale. Better morale, in turn, will go a long way to protecting employees’ mental health and increase their performance in the field. The organization is also going to benefit from having a stable roster of experienced EMTs, paramedics and office workers.

A Better EMS Management System Can Greatly Increase Employee Retention

Adopting modern a software solution will not solve all of an EMS organization’s retention issues, it can be an important first step. The massive cost savings that could be had by adopting Traumasoft’s EMS Management system can empower EMS providers to better compensate crews, dispatchers, and other employees, giving them access to a stable rosters of dedicated and experienced professionals. Plus, the automation and streamline processes will increase employee satisfaction and engagement. This all makes Traumasoft’s software solutions a key ingredient to EMS employee retention.

The benefits offered by Traumasoft can bring teams together, create more flexible working conditions, improve inefficient operations, and improve profitability. What else is better than saving lives and being profitable at the same time?