Experts in the field say a statewide shortage of paramedics will only get worse. Enrollment in the classes is down.
Critical Care Paramedic Martin Ramirez says the stress and low pay can drive skilled emergency responders to the sidelines quickly.
“(There is) Very, very high burnout,” Ramirez says. “The (career) life expectancy of a paramedic can be in the range of three-to-five years.”
Similarly-qualified nurses can make 30% more.
“People that could have been guided toward para-medicine,” he says, “are now going the route of nursing.”
Houston Fire Department Engineer-Operator Ryan Smith is a former firefighter-paramedic.
“A lot of guys in the department, they won't leave HFD,” Smith says, “but a lot of guys, they'll try to promote out of EMS.”
He says the 24-hour shifts can be difficult, saying EMS is a “young man’s job.”
Houston doesn't have a shortage right now, but it's a real problem in the rest of Texas -- and nationwide, as well.