Navigating Rural EMS Change

Date: October 20, 2021

Sustainable Rural EMS: Navigating Change

An Introduction and Guide

For more than five decades, rural ambulance services across the U.S. have been primarily staffed by volunteers. As volunteerism declines and rural ambulance staffing becomes more unpredictable, it would be prudent to ask if your community has an emergency medical services (EMS) problem.

 The Technical Assistance and Services Center (TASC), the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (FORHP), and our many EMS partners are steadfast in helping communities navigate changes occurring within rural healthcare.

The Sustainable Rural EMS: Navigating Change An Introduction and Guide is designed to assist rural communities in navigating a change from unsustainable volunteer EMS and ambulance service models to sustainable ones. This guide is intended to direct community leaders through change based on a stepped process that has been used in rural communities throughout the U.S. It includes information on assessing if a community has an EMS problem, the needed ingredients to change, and a six-step process to implement change to a more sustainable model of rural EMS.

Recognizing early indicators of a problem helps ensure there is never a time when emergency medical help is needed, and no one responds. This potential situation is not hypothetical. Increasingly, rural ambulance services are being called and are unable to respond. In a survey of rural ambulance services in South Dakota in 2016, one-third reported not being able to respond because of a shortage of volunteers, and another one-third reported delays due to insufficient staffing