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Paramedic shortage: College degree requirement may drop

As states nationwide deal with the consequences of a shortage of qualified paramedics and EMTs, the Alabama Legislature is considering ways to make the job more attainable. 

A bill passed Tuesday by the House would eliminate the college degree requirement to become a licensed paramedic. 

Currently, those wanting to become a paramedic in Alabama must have an EMT certification, state of Alabama EMT license, and a course completion certificate from a state-approved advanced EMT course – in addition to obtaining an associate’s or bachelor’s degree from an accredited university. 

The bill, introduced by Rep. Phillip Pettus (R-Green Hill), would open the career to those who are eager to jump in as a first responder. 

Supporters highlighted the potential for on-the-job training, which would allow individuals to gain practical experience while receiving degree credit. 

Rep. Ed Oliver (R-Dadeville) brought up the idea of “ambulance deserts.” 

“That’s something that we deal with in this state ever more frequently, and it’s because we can’t get enough paramedics,” Oliver said. “There are places where you can be in Alabama right now where something bad can happen to you, and there’s nobody that comes for you.”

A task force assembled to address vulnerabilities in the state’s healthcare personnel landscape, led by Sen. April Weaver (R-Briarfield), has furnished a number of proposals this session.  

Tackling the shortage of qualified paramedics was among the issues receiving attention. 

“A paramedic typically becomes an EMT first, and then they’ll go to work on the ambulance as an EMT basic,” Oliver said Tuesday. “Well, then they become an EMT, advanced, and then, of course, they become a paramedic.

“So you’re talking to two and a half years down the road before they’re a paramedic. I think what we’re getting to is that on-the-job training is very important.” 

As passed by the House, the proposal will head to the Senate. 

Grayson Everett is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @Grayson270 for coverage of the 2023 legislative session.

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