America's EMT Shortage Has Communities Relying on Unpaid Volunteers

America's EMT Shortage Has Communities Relying on Unpaid Volunteers

If you call 911 with a medical emergency in Oceana, West Virginia, chances are Nick Lawrence is the guy who’ll show up. He’s one of a handful of volunteer EMTs in Wyoming County who answers calls 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“Obviously, we’re not in it for the money, because there’s no money. There’s absolutely zero benefits whatsoever,” Lawrence told VICE News.

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50 Comments

  1. Gen Doll on January 25, 2023 at 4:17 am

    This is wild. I mean volunteer EMT’s and fire stations are dwindling down as it is, but a county or city that literally doesn’t have paid emergency personnel? If they didn’t have the volunteer’s then the county or closest city would surely have to compensate right? It must be a very rural county because these things are paid for by your taxes like local property tax so if there aren’t many people living there then it isn’t much money going to it. That’s crazy.

  2. Matt McMahon on January 25, 2023 at 4:20 am

    Pay us more lol

  3. Gary Creasy on January 25, 2023 at 4:20 am

    A simple solution might help straighten things out. First is huge cuts to like zero for "public servants" elected jobs at local, state, and national level except for one person at state and federal, governor and president with pay like today with President and governors no more that 50%. These positions make the day to day especially in case of emergencies decisions. This is how the country was for many years until Congress started paying itself with no one voting. Then do strict top pay for a medical and insurance personal which will free billions at no changes for staffing and medical care.

  4. T2122 on January 25, 2023 at 4:20 am

    I think they meant to say “shortage of people willing to work as an EMT while being severely underpaid”.

  5. ghostman on January 25, 2023 at 4:20 am

    Some counties and communities just destroyed the career of some EMTs why would they ever even consider to lend a hand there …

  6. Zachary North on January 25, 2023 at 4:21 am

    lol whats wrong with volunteer ems jeez. as someone who has done volunteer and paid ems I TAKE THAT OFFENSIVELY. lmao

  7. Mingma Sherpa on January 25, 2023 at 4:22 am

    😅 mostly red states will loose meaning more elderly deaths in republican zones….

  8. Dain Ironfoot on January 25, 2023 at 4:22 am

    VOLUNTEER squads have been the backbone of American Medical services since the early days. Same goes for volunteer firefighters.

  9. Trainchikaroo on January 25, 2023 at 4:24 am

    Wow! Our country really is falling apart by the day. Very sad times we live in.

  10. Tabitha Spencer on January 25, 2023 at 4:24 am

    This guy is an absolute Angel! Poor guy has seen so much already but can’t quit.

  11. James T on January 25, 2023 at 4:28 am

    Umm, a significant percentage of EMS/Fire in the US is volunteer…like 70%. This has nothing to do with current staffing shortages. And it has been that way for a while.

  12. Mangosaurus Rex 🥭 on January 25, 2023 at 4:29 am

    Of course it was Reagan, hope you’re burning in hell.

  13. United States Gaming on January 25, 2023 at 4:31 am

    I’m a volunteer in my hometown. I love it, one of the greatest decisions of my life. I’m now a full time paid EMT at a major hospital. However I still volunteer as much as I can

  14. B Kane on January 25, 2023 at 4:31 am

    The system was never designed or have paid emts. Rural or city it was designed around volunteer BLS ambulance with a paramedic running only the worst calls (1-10 % of all 911 calls).

  15. W T on January 25, 2023 at 4:31 am

    Lol but they can spend billions fighting strangers in strange lands.

  16. tritondriver1 on January 25, 2023 at 4:31 am

    $2 Trillion can’t be accounted for

  17. PRO-NON on January 25, 2023 at 4:32 am

    Nah we need to do better the emt and paramedics are literally the superheroes of the community

  18. H on January 25, 2023 at 4:32 am

    I guess when people have had enough and left EMS and there is no one to respond to your emergency at 1:00AM in the morning of grandma having a CVA. They’ll wish they compensated EMS better.

  19. Dain Ironfoot on January 25, 2023 at 4:33 am

    20 years volunteer firefighter. 1 year volunteer EMT. Most depts in my area wouldn’t allow both.

  20. Feels on January 25, 2023 at 4:33 am

    ITS ALWAYS REAGAN

  21. Cody Bernardy on January 25, 2023 at 4:36 am

    You make the same or more at Walmart/McDonald’s, at least in the US.

  22. Jose Rodriguez on January 25, 2023 at 4:37 am

    In Italy, most EMTs are volunteers😔

  23. Haf F on January 25, 2023 at 4:37 am

    Is this still a shortage?

  24. The Weekend Operator on January 25, 2023 at 4:37 am

    Someone set up a GoFund me for these guys!

  25. Steven Z on January 25, 2023 at 4:42 am

    Why does it say Oceana West Virginia on the video when the sign clearly says Wyoming.

  26. Explore With me on January 25, 2023 at 4:44 am

    How can this guy afford to volunteer?

  27. Gen Doll on January 25, 2023 at 4:45 am

    They have money to pay for the medical supplies, gas, vehicles, building, etc but can’t give at least SOMETHING to the people running it? I know people hate taxes but I’d pay a few extra bucks a month to fund my local FD/EMS.

  28. Thomas Simi on January 25, 2023 at 4:45 am

    I have been a volunteer firefigher in Rural Minnesota for 9 years and our tiny department is facing staffing shortages that are probably the worst in the county, if not the state. Our chief just took a leave of absense even. We had an RV fire in April during the day and I was the only member on my department to show up, and it was a fatality. Our department is finally "paid" but last year I didn’t even make $300, but it’s not about the money.

    If you have time and live in the range of a volunteer department, I suggest you apply. They need you

  29. Domsonyomoms on January 25, 2023 at 4:49 am

    They need to start paying people more or this country will fall apart it’s time for the rich to give back

  30. John Spinelli on January 25, 2023 at 4:49 am

    But ofcourse we gotta fund our wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East

  31. A Hos on January 25, 2023 at 4:49 am

    As an EMT I like to suggest not paying EMTs minimum wage could help in future. I mean the garbage truck drivers in my area get 100k a year and good for them but we working 24hr shifts moving and caring for sick people…

  32. D on January 25, 2023 at 4:49 am

    What sucks is, it’s a very tough job and only way to get people to do it is to pay and without it it’s almost impossible to find volunteers to do so. Good on him. Rest his Friends soul.

  33. Dan on January 25, 2023 at 4:51 am

    Paramedic in PA, who started off as a volunteer many many years ago. There are hardly any volunteers left, as it’s become more of a profession and too costly to be a volunteer. There is little to no money in EMS. Medicare reimbursement rates are the lowest in health care for EMS, barely pays for the truck to start. EMS companies have to charge huge bills just to survive and people often blame the responders. People have no clue how expensive it is to staff an EMS vehicle, let alone pay to have a crew staff if. Now staffing shortages throughout the country making it so much worse.

  34. Koby on January 25, 2023 at 4:51 am

    Just passed my EMT final and finished up school. Bouta become an EMT firefighter

  35. Roger Travis on January 25, 2023 at 4:53 am

    As a former Medic and Firefighter Brother Thank You! God Bless You and your family!

  36. Milo & Co on January 25, 2023 at 4:57 am

    Thanks Reagan. The best enemy of middle class America

  37. hitman.radio30 on January 25, 2023 at 4:58 am

    It’d be nice if the Democrats and the government cared as much about poor whites than they do about illegal aliens trying to replace us

  38. Maya Harless on January 25, 2023 at 4:59 am

    I live across Bolt Mountain from Oceana, in Wharton, and I’ll say this first hand, EVEN NOW, we have people dying because of lack of care, lack of emergency services/personnel, and lack of treatment.

  39. Allinmyworld on January 25, 2023 at 5:02 am

    Thank you sir for doing this work.

  40. Reef_breaks on January 25, 2023 at 5:02 am

    If EMTs didn’t exist nurses would be doing those jobs

  41. Tom Reuter on January 25, 2023 at 5:05 am

    Sadly, the EMS provider shortage is not just an issue within local communities. It’s a worldwide issue now. Provider numbers were dropping for years prior to the current pandemic, and now those numbers are in a free fall. We’ve all been in crisis mode for the last 2.5 years, and unless something happens on a federal level soon, the 911 EMS system is going to collapse nationwide.

  42. Steven Morris on January 25, 2023 at 5:05 am

    The majority of EMT’s and a number of paramedics in this country are VOLUNTEERS. It’s always been that way. The only places you will find paid EMS and fire are in cities and more populated areas.

  43. ImNotAGamer on January 25, 2023 at 5:11 am

    Smh this just breaks me.

  44. VICE News on January 25, 2023 at 5:12 am

    “Obviously, we’re not in it for the money, because there’s no money. There’s absolutely zero benefits whatsoever,” Lawrence told VICE News.
    WATCH NEXT: Why Drugs Are So Expensive – https://youtu.be/35XGfnmTm8E

  45. Stephanie Falcheck on January 25, 2023 at 5:12 am

    I always thought and wanted to go to school for EMT and then maybe go to paramedic. But I make more money at a hospital. There’s no pay for the stressful emotionally straining job like that.

  46. Aesir Gaming on January 25, 2023 at 5:13 am

    When I left work as a security contractor, my first thought was to go work as an EMT since I already had my EMT and TCCC certifications. I applied to a local ambulance company and was offered a job. The pay they offered was $16.50 per hour. For comparison, you can throw freight at Target and make $18 or work the closing shift at McDonald’s and make $18.50 in my area. In addition, the employer had my CV, where they could see my background working very good mid-tier security contracts, as well as my previous income which was six figures per year. I was clear that I wasn’t asking for six figures, but that my ‘low-point’ would be $20.00 as that would cover my rent, car and other expenses while I was finishing up Nursing school. They told me that "$16.50 is a lot around here, we normally offered $15.50 or $16.00 for new employees’. Obviously, I did not take that job.

    You want to know why we are short on EMT’s? It’s because you can make more money tossing boxes around at Target or flipping burgers at McDonald’s for far less training, stress and responsibility. It’s a seriously messed up world when the guy handing you your Big Mac makes more than the guy you’ll call to keep you alive after said Big Mac gives your a heart-attack. A lot of guys, myself included, gave up on EMS and instead have gone to work as ED Tech and Med Assistants in the hospital ED’s because the pay is better and benefits better. Ambulance companies in the US are god-awful to work for.

  47. nobody special on January 25, 2023 at 5:13 am

    Funny how where I live in the US, volunteer paramedics and EMT’s were the norm up until a couple years ago when they started to pay them.

  48. Debra Hernandez on January 25, 2023 at 5:13 am

    Why are EMTs not a public service like fire and police?

  49. Bran Stark on January 25, 2023 at 5:16 am

    Too stressful of a job to be unpaid volunteering…

  50. Steven Devenney on January 25, 2023 at 5:17 am

    My friend I am a paramedic. Stop playing politics. Regan cutting taxes did not make volunteer EMS providers “pick up the slack”. Most places where volunteers exist/existed never had paid EMS professionals. The industry really just transitioned from volly majority to paid majority in the last 10-15 years . The problem is that there was never the need to paid EMS. Either the call volume was too low or the volunteer input was high enough or a combination. We do not need or want a federally run EMS system. EMS needs to be county bases with local variations. If you want to be educated on the topic in a politically neutral way reach out I’d be happy to talk.

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