'Emergency Services Week' spotlights volunteers

May 24, 2017

Credit ND Health Department

This is “Emergency Services Week” in North Dakota.

It’s set aside to recognize the more than 5000 personnel that serve the state’s EMS system. A vast majority of those people are volunteers.

"We probably are at least in the neighborhood of 80 percent volunteer services in North Dakota, versus 20 percent who we would consider to be full time," said Tom Nehring,the director of the state Health Department’s Division of Emergency Medical Services.

Nehring said a number of the volunteer ambulance services are struggling – because the volunteer pool is becoming shallower.

"Of course, it wouldn't be a workforce problem if these were 'jobs,'" Nehring said. "But they're not jobs."

Nehring said it's people who give up their nights, their weekends their days to volunteer for ambulance services, usually for very little or no compensation.  He said a week like this will help put a spotlight on that volunteerism – and the sacrifices volunteers make.

"many of them are taking extraordinary calls," Nehring said. "Often times, they miss many of the functions the rest of us enjoy -- family get-togethers, sporting events, those kinds of things."

Nehring said these dedicated workers are every-day heroes.