LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Louisville Metro EMS will boost its paramedic ranks by holding a paramedic class starting in June.

“To have more paramedics in the system, it’s better for the community," EMS Director Jody Meiman said. "It’s better for the system. It’s better for us. It’s better when we can provide more of those skills.”

Currently, 143 emergency medical technicians and 57 paramedics provide 24-hour coverage for the city. But as calls for service have dramatically increased, Metro EMS is not up to full staffing levels. As of Tuesday, the department has 20 EMT vacancies and 16 paramedic vacancies.

“We’re so proud of our people,” Meiman said. “They’re working extremely long hours, very hard. It’s a busy system.”

Meiman said the department is working non-stop to recruit more employees and host EMT recruit classes. He said those efforts, along with an improved Teamsters contract, are working. And that’s why the department is in a position to start a paramedic class.

That plan is to take 30 current EMTs and train them to be the department’s newest paramedics. The program will take 16 to 18 months. Some of the students will be EMTs from surrounding agencies that provide mutual assistance with Louisville, Meiman said.

Dallas Chesser has been an EMT for three years in Louisville. He applied for the paramedic class.

“It’s going to be pretty competitive pace,” Chesser said. “I know that. We work a lot of hours out here on the street as well. And I know adding a school load on top of that is going to be pretty tough.”

EMTs provide entry-level patient care, and it typically takes about four months of training. On the other hand, training to become a paramedic takes more than a year for the advanced medical skills.

“The higher education you get, you can provide better care," Chesser said. "There’s more advanced thing you can do -- different medications, different routes, different airway care. And all of those things lead to better emergency care for your patients.”

Meiman said it has taken a lot of work to get the paramedic class up and running. First, the department had to be accredited. That means the instructors and syllabus needed to be approved by the state.

Then, the department focused on upping the EMT staffing as much as possible so the department could handle upgrading a handful of those senior EMTs to paramedics without spreading employees too thin.

Finally, the budget had to be approved. Meiman said he wasn’t sure how much the class was costing. However, he said it'll be much cheaper since they 're doing it internally.

Investing internally with current EMTs is also expected to help minimize turnover.

“It’s a huge retention thing,” Meiman said. “And it gives our people morale. They’ll know this is somewhat of a promotional process, where we’re growing our own people in our own agency. So they can take more pride in our organization.”

Meiman hopes once the first paramedic class graduates, the department will be ready to start the second class. He has a vision of the department hosting one paramedic class almost each year in the future.

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