AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin-Travis County EMS officials addressed longstanding burnout among EMS personnel that has contributed to some of the department’s increased vacancies during a public safety commission meeting Monday.

ATCEMS Asst. Chief Teresa Gardner said there are 163 department vacancies. Some of the factors contributing to this figure include increases in ATCEMS’ vacancy rates, limited recruitment staff availability and EMT application requirements in place.

However, Gardner added there has been significant burnout impacting staffing volumes.

“It’s been a difficult two years. We’ve had the pandemic, we’ve had Uri, we’ve had a number of significant events in the field that have led to people changing careers,” she said. “We’ve had a number of retirements that have happened over the past year, and it has been a difficult time for folks to maintain their careers here.”

As a result, she said several former employees have left the department for positions in other healthcare roles, as well as those leaving the field entirely.

In an effort to fill vacancies, ATCEMS outlined the following recruitment strategies:

  • Increasing recruitment staff to include dedicated, sworn and full-time staff to assist recruitment efforts from other EMT and paramedic schools and agencies
  • Increasing visibility nationally through EMS conferences, education institutions and marketing materials
  • Eliminating the requirement of 12-month EMS experience for applicants
  • Revisiting and either reducing or clarifying automatic application disqualifications
  • Extending hiring cycles to increase application portal availabilities online
  • Reconsidering pre-requisite certifications for the ATCEMS Communications Center, including the consideration of reducing the EMT Basic requirement to emergency care attendant