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White women and people of colour are underrepresented in the U.S. Emergency Medical Services sector (EMS) and data does not indicate that will change anytime soon, according to a decade-long analysis of more than 700,000 newly-certified emergency medical technicians (EMTs).


Between 2008 and 2017, researchers found that:

  • Less than a quarter (20-23%) of newly-certified paramedics were female.
  • The proportion of newly-certified EMTs and paramedics identifying as black remained constant throughout the study at 5% and 3%, respectively.
  • Throughout the study, the number of Hispanic EMS professionals rose from 10% to 13% among EMTs. Hispanic paramedic representation rose from 6% to 10%.
  • Under-representation among newly-certified EMS professionals varied depending on geography. “For example, in the Northeast, 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%),” researchers said.

The findings differ from other healthcare sectors, where efforts to diversify the workforce appear to be slowly showing results.

“A diverse healthcare workforce can reduce health disparities and inequities in the delivery of care to minority patient populations,” Dr. Remle Crowe, a Research Scientist at ESO in Austin Texas and lead author of the study, said in a statement.

“… However, we’re unlikely to see substantial changes in the diversity of the EMS workforce in the near future. Women and racial/ethnic minority groups remain underrepresented among recent graduates, and the gaps are more pronounced among paramedics.”

The study calls for “coordinated national recruitment efforts” to diversify the EMS professional sector via community engagement and academic partnerships.

The paper was published earlier this month in Prehospital Emergency Care.