WHEELING, W.Va. (WTRF) — The COVID pandemic highlighted many major flaws across the economy, including our critical nationwide shortage of EMS workers.

Ambulance use is up, and EMS workers of all types are in hot demand by employers.

Governor Jim Justice has even put in place the “EMS Answer the Call Initiative” to try and get more EMS professionals for West Virginia.

We spoke with Linda Steele, the EMS Program Director at West Virginia Northern Community College about the shortage, who tells us that the number one cause for it is low pay.

EMA providers do not make a lot of money. In fact I’ve had students ask me if they can support a family on an EMS salary and you can’t….There’s a lot of people who I think would really love to enter this field and it’s just, it is getting better. That’s part of the national recognition is that the pay has got to improve, but unfortunately a lot of times hands are tied.

Linda Steele, WVNCC EMS Program Director

Steele also says another reason for the shortage is that the job can be very high stress, especially in some departments.

But despite the difficulties, she says that she still loves the work.