Iron Mountain, Mich. (WZMQ) – The EMS Workforce Scholarship could help pay up to $20,000 of tuition and fees toward approved paramedic education programs. EMS agencies and colleges qualify for the scholarship, and all paramedic students can apply. The scholarship opportunity, offered through the Michigan Center for Rural Health, is designed to help alleviate healthcare employee shortages in rural communities.
According to Andrea Abbas, the EMS Programs Manager at the Michigan Center for Rural Health, the scholarship is based on a calculated scoring system that will give preference to women, single parents, veterans, racial and ethnic minorities, and those serving in rural areas. “All of the counties qualify as rural counties in the Upper Peninsula,” she commented. “So, I encourage everybody in the U.P., if you’re interested in attending a program, please file your application. Our Upper Peninsula is by far one of the most rural landscapes in Michigan.”
The scholarship opportunity is meant for a paramedic program, and Abbas says that to work as a paramedic, students need to be at least 18 in Michigan. Abbas added that one of the requirements of the grant is you have to be a licensed EMT basic to work as a paramedic. Abbas says that she is encouraging folks who are either licensed as an EMT or will be licensed very shortly to apply for the scholarship. “I think getting folks involved in the EMS early in their career is really important,” noted Abbas.
Scholarship opportunities like the EMS Workforce Scholarship come as a relief to local EMS stations, like Integrity Care EMS in Iron Mountain. According to Don Koerner, the Chief of Operations at Integrity Care EMS, it’s the largest private station in the U.P.
“That would be excellent for the communities, the more scholarships and the more people you can get into the field, would be great. It would help us, it would help everybody in the communities,” Koerner remarked.
“A lot of the volunteer services have suffered great losses. So we’ve lost probably 60 people in the surrounding areas that, we’re all getting older, and nobody has time to volunteer anymore,” shared Koerner.
Integrity EMS did nearly 5,000 ambulance runs in 2022. Integrity is a privately-owned service and gets no funding from outside sources. The station runs 9 ambulances, 2 intercept units, and a wheelchair van. They transport to higher levels of care to cities in Michigan and Wisconsin. Integrity is fortunate to have Guardian Flights to help alleviate some of the demand. They are also fortunate for the employees that they do have.
Employees at Integrity are scheduled 48 hours primary and 12 hours on call. According to Koerner, its not uncommon for these employees to see 60 hours a week. Recently there have been mass casualties and major traumas in surrounding rural areas that have caused volunteer services, like the one in Hermansville, to take themselves out of service to recover. Mentally it can be very difficult on EMS workers to see trauma repeatedly. Many workers who are on call have interrupted sleep.
Abbas confirmed that the scholarship applies to students entering programs at Bay Community College, and when it comes to stations like Integrity care, she says the scholarship could help.
“Folks serving in Iron Mountain, the scholarship is geared towards rural census track communities. So, if you’re serving in a rural census track community, we look at the county census track as well. They should qualify,” said Abbas.
EMS is a service that people don’t think about until it’s needed. Statewide we are at least 1,000 paramedics short according to the Michigan Association of Ambulance Services. According to Abbas, 39% of women are paramedics, nationally.
Some paramedic programs will start a student in their program pending licensure. Abbas said that sometimes it takes awhile to take the National Registry Exam and that could delay someone from starting a program.
Funding partners for the scholarship are the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Bureau of EMS preparedness and Systems of Care. The Michigan Center for Rural Health receives $350,000 to provide initial paramedic education to the state of Michigan for rural EMS professionals. The scholarship is offering two tracks, track one students can apply for $20,000 of tuition and fees under an approved paramedic program.
The second track for the scholarship, Abbas calls “earn-to-learn,” where an EMS agency can apply to pay a student $15 an hour up to $16,000 in funding for classroom hours. The deadline to apply for the scholarship is March 1st.
There will be a career day for those interested in exploring EMS at Bay College West coming up in April. Anyone with questions about applying for the scholarship funding can contact the Michigan Center for Rural Health EMS Programs Manager at: