Raleigh, N.C. — Wake County Emergency Medical Services has around 65 to 70 positions that need to be filled. And on top of that, more EMS workers are out of work due to COVID-19 exposures and sick leave.
Administrators are having to find creative ways to fill shifts, including encouraging a younger generation to step up.
Michaela Casey is one of the many teenagers who is compelled to serve others and provide life-saving care to Wake County.
“A lot of people tell me it’s in my blood,” Casey said. “I was 13 when I first started. My parents both work here.”
Casey went through the Wake EMS cadet program after it was put on hold early in the pandemic.
She’s now a full-time EMT with the county at the age of 18.
“It’s different from what most people my age do,” Casey said. “I feel like it gives you more of a purpose and gives you something to want to do every day.”
Wake EMS is training up a workforce from a younger age through clubs, camps and the cadets. State law allows EMTS, advanced emergency medical technician and paramedics to take state exams at 17 and receive credentials at age 18. The Wake EMS Cadet program allows them to train and ride along with an ambulance crew as young as 14.
“We’re short on resources, so we would have to pull more resources from the streets to help teach the classes,” said Brian Brooks, assistant chief for Wake County EMS. “We’re in the process of trying to figure out the best way to go about that.”
Brooks said Wake EMS also launched a new pre-apprenticeship program with the Wake County Public School System.
Right now 26 high school students are in classes to become EMTs, according to Wake County EMS Training Chief Jake Hardison.
“The biggest benefit is we’re tapping into a local resource, and it gives us a way to really identify kids that want to do this as a career,” he said.
Casey plans to make a career with Wake EMS.
“Start young, start strong,” Casey said. “You take it on strong, and you’re like, ‘I’m going in and going to help. I’m going to do what I need to do to get this task done to help this person out.'”