Women and minority groups are underrepresented in emergency medical services in the U.S., and workforce diversity is not likely to undergo big changes anytime soon, according to a new 10-year study of almost 700,000 newly certified emergency medical technicians and paramedics, published in Prehospital Emergency Care.
Dr. Remle Crowe, a research scientist at ESO in Austin, Texas and lead author of the study, examined the gender and racial/ethnic composition of the 588,337 EMTs and 105,356 paramedics who earned initial National EMS Certification from 2008 to 2017.
WHAT'S THE IMPACT
Throughout this period, only about 20-23% of newly certified paramedics were female. The proportion of newly certified EMS professionals identifying as black remained near 5% among EMTs and 3% among paramedics; and for Hispanics, the proportion rose from 10% to 13% among EMTs and from 6% to 10% among paramedics.
Compared to the U.S. population in 2017, women and racial/ethnic minorities remained underrepresented among newly certified EMS professionals, and these representation differences varied across geographic regions.
In the Northeast for example there were 93% fewer newly certified EMTs who identified as black compared to the U.S. population (4% vs. 11%) and the difference was 138% for new paramedics (4% vs. 11%).
While efforts to increase diversity among healthcare professionals are increasing on a national scale, few have specifically targeted EMS, the authors said. It's important they do so from a standpoint of enhancing patient-provider communication, improving equality in care delivery and promoting multicultural awareness.
Unfortunately, with women and racial/ethnic minority groups comprising a relatively small proportion of new graduates, it's unlikely the EMS field will see widespread changes in the near future, the authors said. The long-term solution may be found in national recruitment efforts, such as partnerships with elementary and middle schools and community engagement initiatives.
THE LARGER TREND
Not only are racial/ethnic minorities underrepresented among EMTs, but as patients they also have lower rates of preventative care visits. A 2018 study found they exhibited lower use of the Medicare annual wellness visit, or AWV, which was explained partially by income and education -- suggesting that the difference is related to factors associated with racial and ethnic inequality.