Some EMTs in the Philadelphia Fire Department (PFD) are working to become paramedics through a valuable new public-private partnership that can help them further their careers in emergency medical services (EMS).

“Our EMTs have demonstrated their commitment to the department, and we are demonstrating our commitment to them by further investing in their skills,” said Assistant Deputy Commissioner for EMS Crystal Yates. “This paramedic training program is a big win for the PFD, our employees and the city.”

Paramedics are able to perform more advanced medical procedures than emergency medical technicians (EMTs), such as administering intravenous fluids and intubating patients. Paramedics also earn higher salaries ($52,873 to $80,777 in the PFD) and have more opportunities for promotion.

Fifteen EMTs from the PFD are enrolled in the paramedic course at Chestnut Hill Hospital, which is part of Tower Health. The classes are taught by instructors with the Reading Hospital School for Health Sciences, which is also part of Tower Health. Classroom learning is followed by hands-on training in practice labs, controlled hospital settings, and out in the field.

“We want our community to have the most highly-skilled EMS providers, and we’re happy to be able to partner with the Philadelphia Fire Department to help make that happen,” said Dr. John D. Cacciamani, President and CEO of Chestnut Hill Hospital.

Offering this professional development opportunity in-house could help the PFD fill paramedic positions amid a regional shortage of paramedics. The department responded to more than 271,000 EMS incidents in fiscal year 2018, or nearly 744 per day.

Angela Wilcher, who became an EMT in 2014 and joined the PFD the following year, said she is eager to learn additional life-saving skills and increase her education in a truly rewarding field.

“Working with the PFD, you learn to work as a team,” said Wilcher. “Every call is different, every patient is different, and being able to handle obstacles that require critical thinking is what drives me to want to do more.”

PFD members work shifts of four days on / four days off, which enables the EMTs to continue working full-time while going to school on their days off. Tuition for the 18-month program is partially covered by Philadelphia Works, the city’s workforce development board.