PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – With a shortage of emergency responders across the country, a Tampa Bay area company is finding a way to fill those much-needed positions.
Sunstar EMS is turning to veterans with medical training. Keith Etcheverry has been a paramedic with Sunstar EMS in Pinellas County for about two years. He made the transition after he retired from the military.
“Served my country for 24 years as active duty, three as a contractor. It was time to serve my community, so I decided to become a paramedic,” Etcheverry said.
As a combat life saver, Keith has basic trauma skills, Sunstar EMS is looking for in other veterans. Sunstar EMS has at least 50 positions that need to be filled. Officials are looking to make the transition to hire veterans easier, with a new bill passed earlier this year.
“We’re having a shortage of paramedics all over the country,” said Charlene Cobb, Sunstar EMS Outreach Coordinator. “A military medic coming out of the military would be a lot better for us to hire because they already have most of the training.”
Unlike Keith, who had to take 18 months of courses, this new initiative will cut the training time in half.
Cobb said, “This bill is going to create a bridge program for them, so they don’t have to take all of the training all over again. They’ll only have to take the training that they’re not familiar with that they didn’t get in the military.”
Thousands of veterans return home, looking for work.
“I do know that there’s a lot of veterans that are unsure where to go,” said Etcheverry. “Your training in the military does not necessarily translate specifically into the civilian work force, that’s why the transition is so important, this new bill is now providing more opportunities for veterans.”
“Those that are combat veterans, you’ve seen a lot of pretty horrific things on the battle field, both with military as well as against civilians, I think in that way it’s definitely prepared us for the type of trauma’s and scenes that we come on here,” he said.
Sunstar EMS officials say there’s not a lot of paramedic training programs left in Pinellas County. Nationally, in the next six years, there will be more than 55,000 paramedic positions that need to be filled. Officials say hiring veterans helps fill that void.