James Campbell, chief of emergency medical services for the Montgomery County Hospital District, said he is focusing on two things in 2023: employee retention and recruitment.

He has already adopted a schedule change for his employees.

Emergency medical technicians and paramedics for the hospital district will now get an additional day off in their rotation. The change, Campbell said, essentially amounts to five days off in a row after working two 24-hour on-and-off shifts. The schedule change will reduce annual employee hours by approximately 600 hours.

“We're hoping to give them more work-life balance,” he said. “We want our employees to have more time with their families and friends and allow them to rest and recover before they come back to work. Our call volume is higher than it's ever been, so we feel like this is the perfect time to focus on our employees and take care of them.”

Campbell said retention is more important than ever as well due to the nationwide paramedic shortage.

The American Ambulance Association reported a 6% increase in overall turnover for EMS occupations in 2022. The report noted that greater than one-third of all new hires leave positions within their first year of employment. MCHD's 2022 turnover rate was 18%, which is below the national average, Campbell said.

“We'd like it to be lower, but at 18% we are half of what the national average is,” he said. “That shows that we have really good people here. For nine consecutive years, we've been in the top three in the country in customer service for organizations our size. For 2022, we were ranked No. 1. That shows that we hire great people and we hope that helps with retention, too.”

Campbell said the department's secondary focus is on recruitment. The department launched a new program in January to hire EMTs and train them to become paramedics.

“We are sending EMTs to paramedic school and paying for all of their expenses,” he said. “This is allowing us to build our paramedic pipeline for the future and hopefully keep them in MCHD for a long, successful future.”

After solving staffing issues, Campbell said the department will focus on building and stations and adding ambulances in 2024-25. He said he also hopes the MCHD will be more present in the community by offering more free CPR classes.