NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. - Pasco County is growing fast and along with it, the need for more firefighters.
"When we run an application process, we get anywhere between 20 and 60 applicants. So when we’ve got to hire 100 and we only have between 20 and 60 applicants, it’s tight to find qualified people that we want to bring on to this great agency," said Shawn Whited, the division chief of operations at Pasco County Fire Rescue.
Whited said it’s getting harder to recruit EMTs and paramedic firefighters, and tapping the pool of experienced workers isn’t always an option.
"We’re getting the guys straight out of fire academy, EMT academy and paramedic academy with no experience," said Whited. "They’ve seen movies and they’ve heard their friends talk about it. But until you’re actually at that fire station and you’re running those calls 24 hours a day, it’s an eye-opener."
Pasco County Fire Rescue does partner with schools to give EMS students hands-on experience with patient calls. Pasco County recently renewed an agreement with the School of EMS to train students on clinical work in real-world settings on calls with firefighters.
"So we actually get a lot of our EMT as referrals from employers. They're going out and recruiting high school students, folks that are in the service industry and pretty much anybody they run into that wants to get into the medical field or wants to get into the fire service but doesn't know how," said Robert Stanley, the director of education at the School of EMS.
Stanley said emergency medical services is a rewarding job, but the industry needs people to stick around for the long haul to help fill a growing need.
"It's more difficult now than it used to be," said Stanley, speaking about recruitment and retention. "That is something that a lot of the local agencies are really striving to try to change is how can we retain the medics that we have."