Your turn: What can help ensure rural EMS volunteers are available?

On Monday, we asked for ideas on the best way to ensure rural communities have enough emergency medical service volunteers to answer the call when needed.

We noted about 60 percent of emergency medical technicians and paramedics in Minnesota's nearly 200 rural ambulance services are volunteers, according to industry analysts.

To help, a three-year pilot program aimed at recruiting and retaining volunteers for these emergency services is providing a $500 yearly stipend for volunteer firefighters, volunteer ambulance attendants and volunteer emergency medical responders in 14 Minnesota counties, including Faribault, Fillmore, Freeborn and Houston.

What else should be considered?

Below are the responses we received:


Make it easier to help

I am from a small town and wanted to volunteer for the ambulance crew. I had my EMT certificate at one point when I obtained it in college but did not keep it up to date because I wasn't working.

Now, years later, I am a nurse and state certification/legislation requires me to retake the entire portion of certification. I don't remember the exact number of hours, but it's a lot. They usually do the training four hours one night or more a week for a couple of months. This is just not doable for some people to accomplish with their schedules. In my case, I feel it is overkill as I am already medically trained and licensed.

They should change that and maybe more people would be able to help. I can see their hesitation with individuals with no medical and health assessment training and not wanting to change the certificate process for them but work could be done for others.

Jodi Nicholson


Protect against extra costs

I'm not sure about Minnesota, but in Iowa, some ambulances are just support. They don't transport unless they absolutely have to. They respond until transport gets there. And I don't think they are paid.


We were always having bake sales to get equipment we needed. Can they work with 3M Medical Division or Homeland Security to reduce costs somehow? Can they join Cardinal or another group to get reasonable prices on equipment and supplies?

Our training was good, but it didn't count toward a degree. It might help if the credits could be used toward a degree, and service could be used toward student loans.

If you wrecked your clothes, it was your own loss. More protection for the volunteers against loss is needed. If you are going to sit in the creek in new shoes while holding a guy's head out of the water while they get a car that's leaking fluids off him, you shouldn't have to absorb the cost, especially if you're a broke college student that's trying to support kids or aging parents and volunteering for experience.

Part of it has to do with who is available to work in a small town during the day. Most go to work somewhere else. So bringing industry to rural areas so they have a pool to draw from helps.

Sandra Bruggeman


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