Why EMS Applicant Screening Matters

One of my soap boxes is that EMS needs to do a better job of  picking people for the tremendous responsibility we have.  How many other professions place people alone with some of society’s most vulnerable people as often as we do?  

Last year an EMT with the service that covers my home town was arrested for raping a 14-year-old girl. I wrote a post advocating a law-enforcement type screening process for EMS workers to try to weed out people who are into that sort of thing.  Last week a friend of that nice young man, who worked for a service that covers my parent’s house, wrote this in a comment that was critical of my post:

He will do his time, like he deserves, no doubt about that. But if you didn’t live through this nightmare with the family, than shut the (expletive) up about things you know NOTHING about.

I wasn’t going to waste energy explaining what slander is to her, and I thank the other people who did that for me.  Not that she would care, but I actually do know a little bit about the service he worked for.

Here’s why this stuff matters.  Imagine seeing a story about paramedic in your community being arrested for raping a 14-year old girl.  Perhaps the arrest was on camera at the ambulance base, with the suspect in uniform and its trucks in the background.  Now imagine getting a phone call the next day to learn that your 14-year-old daughter had gotten drunk, passed out, and was taken to the hospital by that service. There are lots of things for a parent to to worry about in that situation.  Having a sexual predator alone in the back of an ambulance with your daughter should not be one of them.

This stuff matters for us, too.  At a service near where that nice young man worked, I was partnered with a sexual predator.  His victim was a coworker who had a similar profile to mine.  It wasn’t me, but could have been.  Before he was caught, there were widely circulated stories about his bizzarre behavior in the past.  There were patterns of recklessness at several previous employers.  I don’t know if he had ever been arrested, but he was offered a job at my service despite plenty of red flags.  I certainly felt uncomfortable being alone with him, which ended up being a few hundred hours together on an ambulance.  

In EMS, we spend a lot of time alone with a partner, often in remote areas.  Shouldn’t employers take precautions beyond looking at arrest records to help prevent on partner being victimized by the other?  No screening process is perfect, and some bad people will inevitably slip through.  But an imperfect process is better than none, and should not be an excuse for not trying. 

Where I work now, I went through a rigorous background check and psychological exam.  Except for a polygraph, it’s the same as what the cops get.  At every other service I worked for, I checked a box on a form saying I have never been arrested.  At each service, I’ve gone on the same types of calls, have been placed in the same situations with vulnerable people, and spend a similar amount of time alone with a single coworker.  Law enforcement has a fairly consistent screening process for applicants across the country.  Why don’t we?  Why is it so much easier to show up at someone’s house in an ambulance than in a police car?  Do we have any less responsibility? 

As EMS evolves into a profession, I hope that we move beyond “pulse and a patch” selection and take applicant screening more seriously.


  1. I agree with you that EMS Provider Screening is almost like finding a unicorn! I have been a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist for 19 years. I have a private practice in Reno, Nevada. The majority of my clients are First Responders. I have worked with Acute and Posttraumatic Stress in First Responders my entire career. I have traveled all over for MCI’s and more Critical Incidents than I could ever count. I decided to go back to school and get my PhD in Clinical Psychology, as well as Industrial & Organizational Psychology, and chose EMS for my dissertation. My dissertation title is: “Personalityy Traits That Promote Positive Selection When Interviewing Paramedics for Potential Employment”. So below, I have posted my request for Current and Former Paramedics to participate in my research.


    I am a PhD student working on my dissertation. My dissertation is working with Paramedics. I have worked extensively with first responders for 17 years. You are welcome to go to my website and read more about my EMS experience at: http://www.bevpaschaltherapy.com .

    I am looking for Paramedics, both Currently Licensed and working in EMS and Former Paramedics who are no longer working in EMS, Fire or Trauma. My dissertation is based on determining some of the personality traits of Current and Former Paramedics. All participants must be currently or formerly employed in the United States. Unfortunately I cannot use any EMT-I’s or EMT-2’s.

    If you or any of your family members have ever received mental health treatment from me, I am not able to include you in the study.

    However, please think of any of your current or past peers that do qualify.

    What will be required of you is to contact me via email at: bpaschal@waldenu.edu and state in the subject line if you are a Current Paramedic or Former Paramedic. You will then be sent an email that issues you a personal number and password, as well as a link to get started. All participants are given a number and password to keep everything confidential.

    You will be asked to fill out two (2) questionnaires and a multiple choice assessment. All are done on your computer. All information is kept confidential and not known by any agencies or employers. The researcher will know the names of the participants only in order to assign passwords and passcodes. The researcher will not know what results go with what participant.

    I would like to thank you ahead of time for your willingness to participate and help me with this study. I believe the results will help the EMS field significantly. If you wish to read more about me and find out who you will be working with, you can go to my website and read my credentials and my experience in EMS.


    Beverly J. Paschal, MA, MFT (775) 827-0404


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