MUSCLE SHOALS, Ala. – For the last couple of years, there has been a major shortage of volunteer first responders, especially in rural areas of Alabama. A new state program that is in place could hopefully remedy this increasing need.
The semester is now complete for Health Studies at Northwest-Shoals Community College. Here, many students get their start in the Emergency Medical Technician field. A line of work which is seeing tremendous growth.
“As the population ages, people are calling more for these resources and the need is out there; especially in the remote areas,” stated Mark Simpson the NWSCC Health Studies Chairperson.
In more rural areas of Alabama, many of these EMT positions are volunteers who get no pay. The state legislature and governor approved a bill earlier this year which gives some incentive to become a medically trained responder. The program became available to students in October.
“It’s actually provided an avenue for our first responders and our rescue units to be able to come and complete the course, and get tuition reimbursement following that with a commitment to serve in their community,” Simpson explained.
The commitment is three years to a local volunteer fire department or rescue squad in Alabama. Tuition is reimbursed once you pass the test for your state EMT license.
“It is my hope that this will encourage individuals that are serving in their communities to come back and get this education and to go back into their communities because we need those people,” said Simpson.
And educators say not only will the individuals gain life-saving skills, they can use the course as a gateway into health-related fields.
For more information about the Volunteer Rescue Student Tuition Reimbursement Program, contact the Northwest Shoals Community College Emergency Medical Services Program at (256) 331-5336.