Nationally, there's a shortage of paramedics, including at some local departments. One department is working to recruit paramedics with a $5,000 signing bonus.
When someone's life is on the line, paramedics are there in just minutes. Action News Jax tagged along with the Jacksonville Beach Fire Department on Friday afternoon. While the crew was there, firefighters responded to an apartment fire.
"Our first thought is there's probably going to be some people inside, and we need to make sure they're all out," said Caleb Gressman, a paramedic and firefighter.
Everyone was out and safe. While no one needed medical attention, Gressman said the majority of their calls are medical-related.
"About 85%-90% of what we do is medical," he said.
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He's one of 18 paramedics with the department. The chief said they have plenty of paramedics to serve their community. Action News Jax asked Gressman why he thinks they don't have a shortage issue.
"It's a lot of stress and a lot of work on top of little pay. Luckily, here, we do get paid pretty decent to do our jobs," Gressman said.
Camden County is doing what it can to recruit paramedics. It's now offering a $5,000 sign-on bonus. It also said it increased the pay in July to about $45,000 a year with no previous experience. Right now, the city said there are 16 full-time paramedics and five part-time paramedics. The city said it needs about five more full-time paramedics.
In Duval County, there were 906 paramedics in 2017. In 2018, there were 889. And in 2019, there are 863. A spokesperson with JFRD said paramedics are retiring faster than the department can hire replacements.
In Clay County, there are 113 paramedics. The chief said, "We have more than bare minimum, being that which is required by the state."
In St. Johns County, there are 239 paramedics. A spokesperson the county does not have a shortage but always welcomes more.
Back in Jacksonville Beach, firefighters were able to quickly put the fire out.
"We caught it early, so we're able to stop it pretty good, so it didn't spread to far," Gressman said.
While some departments are having trouble keeping or recruiting paramedics, Gressman isn't going anywhere.
"That's why I got into the job. I truly want to help people," he said.
A couple of local chiefs tell Action News Jax, another reason why they think it's hard getting paramedics, is the national registry test. All paramedics have to take it, versus a state test. They said it's a lot harder.
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