OSWEGO — Oswego County’s new approach to training is paying off but there’s still a shortage of emergency medical technicians (EMTs), county officials said.

Oswego County is hosting its second EMT Academy on Sept. 22 for individuals hired by local ambulance agencies to learn “on the job,” which has had a good response according to Oswego County EMS Coordinator Renee Fox, but the county isn’t immune to the nationwide problem of a lack of paid or volunteer EMTs.

“The nation as a whole is experiencing a staffing shortage of EMTs. Oswego County is no exception, so we are always in need of additional providers,” Fox said. “People who are interested in finding out more about EMS are encouraged to call a local EMS agency or look at the Department of Health Bureau of EMS website.”

The county hosted its first academy last February, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, participants had to wait two months before completing their certification exam.

The classes were limited to six people, making it easier for instructors to give individual attention to students.

“The students did very well, 100 percent pass rate, indicating that this new style of EMS education is one we should continue to explore,” Fox said.

The academy will have some changes later this month to keep instructors and students safe from the coronavirus.

The Department of Health Bureau of EMS and Trauma Systems issued guidance for the academy to follow, including encouraging distance learning, social distancing, mask-wearing and enhanced cleaning procedures.

Students also take their certification exam at a testing center instead of in a traditional way with pen and paper. This sped up the overall process, Fox said.

“This allows students to know their results immediately and receive a temporary card to start practicing,” Fox said. “In the past, results have taken weeks to arrive and students were not able to practice until they received their cards in the mail.”

The county also conducts EMS courses for individuals who want to volunteer to serve their community. While the academy is preparing for its second session, Fox said the EMS education classes have been running for more than 10 years.

“Over the last several years we have seen a significant decline in volunteerism in the fire and EMS services,” Fox said. “There have been years where it was difficult to recruit the minimum number of students needed to run a course.”

Individuals interested in taking an EMT course can call the county Emergency Management Office at 315-591-9150.

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