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Women and minorities underrepresented in emergency medicine, new research shows

Less than a quarter of newly certified paramedics are female, and only about 5 percent of EMTs self-identify as black.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

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.
 

Twitter: @JELagasse

Email the writer: jeff.lagasse@himssmedia.com