How to Stand Out Using Low-Cost Recruitment, Retention Strategies

Scrolling through Facebook, I regularly notice EMS providers seeking feedback from friends and colleagues. Someone will post, “Hey, I’m moving to this city. Does anybody know some good ambulance services that are hiring?” Plenty of people will respond, “This is a pretty good place.” Others share warnings such as, “Don’t work for Provider X.” Word of mouth can be valuable for any EMS. What current and former employees say about their positive work experience is a major benefit to recruitment and retention. In order to ensure a top-notch service to customers and to attract top-tier employees, recruitment and retention must be at the top of the to-do list. This is important for both public and private EMS departments. With negative word of mouth, unless somebody is desperate to get a job, “Provider X” in the example above won’t receive a second look from applicants. While some services use salary as a major recruitment and retention tool, it’s not the only way to stand out. There are various low-cost strategies to employ when it comes to recruiting and retaining employees.

Moving on up

Opportunities for advancement are one attractive benefit. In a fire service, providers often begin their tenure as a fire service paramedic. They can take a test to become a paramedic lieutenant. If a space opens up, a person can test to be a paramedic captain or eventually paramedic chief. In private ambulance services, the organizational structure is often different. Provide an infrastructure for improvement is of the utmost importance. For many professionals, that upward mobility is gained through education. Offering more knowledge benefits both parties and has an impact across the continuum of care. The advanced education benefit allows providers to offer better care and to communicate better with colleagues in other healthcare disciplines about a patient’s care. This builds loyalty among employees toward a service that continues to invest in their skills.

Some organizations may avoid providing education while on the clock. Advanced planning ensures coverage while expanding the team’s skills. Work with your team to determine the most convenient time and day for the provider and the EMS to obtain educational opportunities.

Learning curve

An EMS department can offer a number of educational opportunities — starting with all the necessary courses to maintain certification — to expand a provider’s knowledge.
Some of the options include the following:

  • Tuition reimbursement for college
  • Flight paramedic, critical care or tactical paramedic certifications
  • Critical care continuing education

These certifications make providers, and the service they work for, stand out above the crowd. Think of the added benefit of saying, “All of my paramedics are critical care paramedics.”

To recruit or to retain

So what comes first – recruitment or retention? That depends on the needs of an individual service. If a service, for example, is 10 people short, filling those spots is paramount. If there aren’t any open spots, concentration turns to keeping the providers you have satisfied and offering the best service possible. These providers are valuable because they are most familiar with your area, contracts and how your service does business. Whether recruitment or retention is the goal, the following perks may help candidates choose your organization over competitors:

  • Free uniforms
  • Recognition awards, dinners, picnics and other company events
  • Colleague referral programs
  • Discounts for services and products, such as gym memberships, travel, etc.
  • Tax breaks for EMS volunteer hours (in some states)

While some services rely on a quick increase in salary as their only tactic, recruitment and retention is impacted by much more. Finding and incorporating multiple ways to value your providers and their contributions is the most beneficial path to follow.

mobility, recruitment


Scott McConnell

Scott McConnell, RN, CEN, PHRN, NRP, is the co-founder of Distance CME by OnCourse Learning and an EMS instructor.