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Demand for Paramedics and EMTs Increasing Because of Aging Baby Boomers

Directly after World War II there was an era of population growth in America.  The population in the United States increased in size between the years of 1945 and 1964 as a result of this. This addition of over 60 million citizens added to the growth of America during this time period and is defined as the “baby-boomer” generation.  This highly productive generation is credited with many new developments and advancements in the United States, but they are now starting to reach retirement age.   

In 2010, the baby-boomer generation started to reach the age of 65.  This generational group has increased the number of adults over 65 in America from one in eight to one in five. The life expectancy in the United States is also on the increase so this generation will live longer.  With the expansion of this older adult group the need to create more jobs for EMTs and paramedics will also increase.  The reason is that as people get older the amount of 911 requests for Emergency Medical Services escalates as well.  This escalation will result in a greater demand for EMS assistance and transports to hospitals.

There needs to be long-term strategic planning and preparation for this inevitable increase in demand for EMS services. Medical facilities need to start planning for this future shift in EMS demand, otherwise their ability to deliver quality patient care may be jeopardized. 

The United States Fire Administrations (USFA) has recognized the need to develop strategic initiatives for short and long term planning.   The USFA has stated “prevention and preparedness” in their mission statement (USFA Strategic Plan, 2010).  One of their goals is to improve local planning and preparedness.  As a department and a fire service organization, we must start to prepare for how we are going to handle the influx of the aging members of society.

The dependency for medical care increases as adults age.  By the age of 65, 80% of the older adult population has at least one chronic medical condition.  While over half have two or more ongoing serious medical situations.  A 2-year study in Canada (Vegda, Nie, Wang 2009), supports the fact that the aging process requires more doctor visits, diagnostic testing, and emergency room trips.  The highest use of health care fell into the 75-84-age range, which means that in 10 years the peak of healthcare impact from the baby-boomer population will begin.  This study also revealed that this age group visited the emergency room 131 percent more than the younger population.  The effect on emergency services is that older adults are prone to many medical conditions that will require them to access these services. Estimates are predicting that the number of non-fatal falls will increase five times over the next 20 years due to the increase by the baby-boomers.

Starting in January of 2011, it is estimated that for the next 19 years, each day 10,000 baby boomers will reach the age of 65.  As this large segment of the population ages the likelihood of medical emergencies will also increase and demand will increase for EMTs and paramedics.  The time that EMTs and paramedics must spend with each patient is increasing as well.  This is due to the increase of overcrowding in emergency rooms across the nation.  It will take longer to transfer the patient from the care of the EMTs to the staff of the emergency department.  Sometimes the ambulance will be diverted to another ER due to overcrowding.  The demand for transfers between hospitals for specialty care is also increasing.  Most patients will need to be transferred by ambulance, so they can be monitored. 

All of these factors indicate a greater demand for EMTs and paramedics, so now is a good time to pursue a job as a paramedic.

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