MAURY COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — Those who help others when seconds count are now calling for help themselves. Emergency medical technicians are leaving the profession at a record rate and industry leaders say this should cause nationwide concern.

When Michael Dunavant, the Interim Director for Maury Regional Medical Center EMS, started in the industry 20 years ago he says you had to wait to get into service. A coveted spot on a truck was hard to come by.

“Since then, the industry has grown,” Dunavant explains, “You have more helicopter services, you have more private services, more ground transports, more opportunities to work in emergency rooms as paramedics and EMTs.”

Options have oversaturated an industry notorious for long hours, low pay, and high stress, especially during a time when the novel coronavirus swept the globe.

“Our guys stood here, battled it out, wore the suit, wore the mask, drenched in sweat on a hot day,” Dunavant says.

A survey conducted by the American Ambulance Association in 2021 found the turnover among both EMT and part-time paramedics range from 20-30% annually. With percentages that high, an organization is looking at 100% turnover during a 4-year-period.

“There are some services out there, they’re struggling,” agrees John Shadix Basic Life Support supervisor.

While there’s only a handful of positions open currently at Maury Regional Medical Center EMS, there was a time they felt the strain of being short-staffed like everyone else.

“One of our dispatchers is an EMT, and our training manager is a critical care paramedic. They jumped on the truck and went on a call.”

It’s a lot to ask of those in the emergency medical profession especially an EMT, which is one of the worst-paid jobs in health care, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

News Nation reports, on average, they make 30% less than other working Americans, with most making less than $37,000 a year.