Superior Ambulance Service needs employees in Roswell, but is having trouble finding qualified applicants — especially paramedics.
Chris Archuleta, CEO of Superior Ambulance Service, told the c ity’s Ambulance Administrative Oversight Committee that the shortage of personnel is affecting the ambulance service’s ability to fully staff the ambulance the city uses for out-of-town runs.
“This doesn’t affect 911 service; we have three units dedicated to 911,” Archuleta said. But the shortage of paramedics is a problem, and it is becoming a statewide issue.
Archuleta said New Mexico has started requiring newly minted paramedics to possess a two-year degree with their training, which not only takes longer to get qualified paramedics in the field, but once they receive an associate’s degree, they often stay in school and continue on to get a nursing degree.
“And why wouldn’t they — it means a more lucrative career for them,” said Mike Mathews, city special services administrator, who chaired the committee meeting.
“We’ve been trying to recruit for the city, and we are going to go with another round of advertising,” Archuleta said. There are 10 openings in the Roswell ambulance service, and six of those openings are for medics, he said.
“We’ve had some applicants, but we weren’t really happy with them, and we don’t want to just fill a position with a warm body,” Archuleta said. “We are also recruiting out of state.”
The training issue may require the fire department and the ambulance service to team up one day soon to create a training center where they can teach and certify paramedics, Archuleta said. Albuquerque already trains their own firefighters and paramedics, and a similar program could be instituted in southeastern New Mexico as well.
“One problem is the training has to be accredited, so we have to work with an institution such as Eastern New Mexico-Roswell to get the accreditation,” said Brian Powell, EMS division chief.
The Roswell Independent School District and ENMU-R have partnered to create a new Early College High School in Roswell, and one of the career tracks will be Health/EMT, said Donna Oracion, spokeswoman for the university.
Ninth-graders in the Roswell Independent School District will be able to enroll in the school this coming fall semester. Students can earn both a high school diploma and an associate’s degree through this new Early College program.
For adults wanting to get into the paramedic field, Superior Ambulance offers a tuition assistance program for qualified applicants. In return for tuition assistance, the student is required to work for the ambulance service for two years to pay back the educational loans, Archuleta said.
Anyone interested in the paramedic tuition assistance program can visit the website superior-nm.com, or call 505-247-8840 for more information, Archuleta said.
However, training programs do not help with staffing issues in the short term.
Archuleta said Superior Ambulance has been sending staff down from Albuquerque to help staff the Roswell ambulances.
The ambulance service is looking at different ways of staffing the EMS, based on 12-hour shifts, to keep the coverage needed.
“We might have to find a residence here and start sending down staff, but we will remain staffed,” he said. “Where we are running into trouble is on these out-of-town runs, they just kill us.”