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MUSCLE SHOALS, Ala. (WHNT) – A pilot education program is being launched across the state this fall to increase the number of first responders.

For years we’ve heard about the shortage of nurses, but now there’s a shortage of qualified paramedics who respond to emergency scenes.

To help fill the increased need for paramedics, the Alabama Department of Post-Secondary Education partnered with select community colleges across the state to offer the “Direct to Paramedic” program.

“They have to be trained on various numbers of emergencies. As opposed to other health care providers, where they have multiple help, in general it’s just a paramedic and his partner,” explained Northwest Shoals Community College EMS Instructor Chris Demorse.

According to Demorse, the new program takes a student who has all their general education requirements and places them in a yearlong paramedic program.

The students bypass EMT and Advanced EMT training, which gets them into the field more quickly.

“Ultimately to increase our profession in general,” Demorse stated, “and increase the number of lives saved.”

And Demorse said once the students finish their training, they will likely not have a problem finding a job with the demand being so high.

Instructors say the “Direct to Paramedic” pilot program will be evaluated after this school year to determine if it will continue for the foreseeable future.

The program has already filled up with interested students.