LEEDS, Ala. (WBMA) — The Regional Training Institute (RTI) in Leeds offers three levels of Emergency Medical Services training, ranging from EMT basic, advanced and paramedic.
At the beginning of May, the program was expanded to include paramedic training.
"We are reaching out as far as Tuscaloosa, Montgomery, Decatur, Cullman, the entire Jefferson county area, St. Clair County, Shelby County, we are reaching out to all the counties, a lot of students from Walker County," said RTI Director of Education Leo Deason.
There has been a shortage of emergency medical staff all across the country. Paramedics, which require additional training from EMTs, have been harder to recruit.
"The populations are growing within the cities, communities, counties, but the paramedic, EMS population hasn’t grown," explained Deason.
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Of the 119 enrolled at RTI, 69 are taking the paramedic courses.
Deason said this will be a step in the right direction to help address the shortage in Alabama.
"We can build tuition at a lot lower rate, to help students and attract more people to be able to afford it," said Deason. "We brought the price down, and are strictly a non profit so we can help get more paramedics and EMTs on the streets."
Tuition is about $5,100. Deason said many of the students are being sponsored. Of those who are enrolled, many currently have positions with area ambulance services and fire departments.
RTI offers a flexible schedule, where the same classes are offered on different days and some coursework is available online. Classes are held Monday through Thursday from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Most people who work in the field already, work 24 hours on and 48 hours off, schedules. This allows them the opportunity to take classes which best fit their work schedule.
Parker Nelson has been a firefighter/EMT with Center Point Fire District for about a year and a half. He is currently enrolled at RTI to become a paramedic.
"I work here and I work at Birmingham, so with the flexible schedule, I'm able to go, if I'm off, go on my off day, if need be I can go while I'm here," said Nelson. "It's just something I’ve always wanted to do and didn’t have the opportunity to do it, either given time and money, and with this program, it gives me and a lot of other people the benefit of working and also going to school at the same time."
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Roger Moody is an EMT basic with Regional Paramedical Services. He changed careers from being a tow truck driver to an EMT last year. After getting some time and experience under his belt, he is looking to enroll to eventually become a paramedic too.
"We had a daughter on the way, so it was a decision I had to make, being a volunteer firefighter as well, I really enjoyed the line of work helping the community out, to me it was a no brainer," explained Moody. "It's not an easy job, the call volume is crazy, sometimes, the calls can be hectic, but if you’ve got the heart for it, go for it."
Moody works alongside Braxton Morrison at Regional Paramedical Services. They are both basic EMTs.
"I just went through the advanced EMT class here at RPS through RTI and I am currently working on passing my national exam to get my advanced license," said Morrison.
Morrison's goal is to continue his training and education.
"Especially with the paramedic shortage, I wanted to expand my career and see what new opportunities come up for me," said Morrison. "My career goal is to be a flight paramedic on a helicopter."
Those enrolled in the paramedic classes right now will finish the one year program in April of 2024. The next group will start classes at the end of August and another group will start in January.