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3 Ways to Decrease EMT and Firefighter Turnover Rates

According to a survey conducted in 2018, firefighters and paramedics cycle through their careers quite quickly, and the hiring process is repeated far too often. EMS and firefighter turnover rates hover around 25%, with most leaving voluntarily. 

Can anything be done to avoid this costly trend among firefighters and EMTs?  Fortunately, the answer is yes. Turnover rates can be lowered with careful recruiting, thoughtful re-recruiting, and powerful engagement.

Careful Recruiting

Firefighter requirements are more than just physical agility and strength. Every firefighter and paramedic needs to be a cultural fit as well. Both the employer and potential employee need to assess the culture and determine if this is a match. The mission and values of a department need to be clearly communicated during the interview. Finding the initial right hire can lower costly turnover rates.

Whether conducting the interview or being interviewed, it’s important to ask the right questions to know what the true culture is. Consider the following:

  • Ask for behavioral experiences. For example: Tell me about a time when you had to tell the truth even though it made you look bad. 
  • Ask a hypothetical question. For example: What would you do if you saw someone acting unethically?
  • Ask a credential question. For example: How would others describe your level of integrity? 
  • Ask an opinion question. For example: What would you do in this situation? The fire chief and captain are arguing and it’s about to become physical. 

Honest answers in an interview will reveal if the fire or EMS department will be a cultural fit.

Thoughtful Re-Recruiting

Too often once a firefighter or paramedic is hired, he or she is treated as if they’ll never leave. However, EMT, paramedic, and firefighter duties are stressful and can take a toll on mental health. Creating a culture of appreciation and recognition can help high performers remain with your department. The Studer Group recommends using management tools and objective criteria to rank your employees as high, middle, and low performers. Your conversation with each of these groups should be different and should motivate high performers to coach middle and low performers.

Incentives are a great way to re-recruit high performers so they will stay. For example, offering opportunities for job growth, making room in your budget for pay raises, and handing out awards or prizes lets your employees know they are valued for their performance. Other small benefits, such as providing free firefighter or EMS continuing education online for your department, helps you attract a higher quality of recruits and retain your current personnel. Creating a good workplace culture or providing EMS online education are inexpensive ways to avoid the costly hiring and training process.

Powerful Engagement

Engaging with firefighters and paramedics lets them know they are appreciated. This can be done by offering different job titles or giving inexpensive perks to those who show an interest in personal job growth. Take time to listen to the concerns of your personnel. Allow them to help come up with incentives and goals that will motivate them personally and keep them invested in your department. Make them feel valued and heard by implementing changes they suggest or providing clear steps for job growth. Engaging with your personnel encourages a low turnover rate. 

The recruiting, hiring, and training process can be expensive. Investing in a lower turnover rate doesn’t have to be. CareerCert offers firefighter and EMS online education that is industry-leading and built to easily fit into busy work schedules. Many of our courses are self-paced, allowing firefighters, EMTs, and paramedics to complete each course during downtime at the station. Our online tools will help you easily assign, manage, and track training that helps your department stay compliant, identify gaps, and improve outcomes. Check out CareerCert’s agency solutions for more information.


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