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"Nobody wants to do this job anymore": Burnout, fatigue taking a toll on EMTs and paramedics 2 years into COVID pandemic

Burnout, fatigue taking a toll on NYC EMS 02:16

NEW YORK - It's been two years since COVID shut down New York City.

Our EMTs and paramedics were on the front lines, but now many say burnout and fatigue is taking a toll on the department.

Two years ago, Diana Wilson was working 16-hour shifts in an ambulance, caring for COVID patient after COVID patient in Queens.

"One of the worst moments is when I have to take a critical patient to the hospital but can't let family come along," Wilson told CBS2 in 2020. "I find myself becoming a counselor in these moments."

That took a toll.

Speaking to CBS2's Ali Bauman on Thursday, Wilson said, "Our workers were checked out."


Once the curve began to flatten, there was one ambulance run that pushed Wilson, a devoted EMT for 17 years, to her breaking point.

"I responded to someone that was also, that had COVID, and she was young. She was about my age, and they actually were checking on her, and when they found her, when we found her, actually, she wasn't, she didn't make it. And I think that was my end point. I said, that's it, I think it's time for me to get off the streets," she said.

EMS Union President Oren Barzilay says the pandemic highlighted the peril that EMTs have always faced.

"Nobody wants to do this job anymore. You're risking your life for $18 an hour," he said.

While EMS did get a raise last year, the starting salary for an EMT is $39,386 in New York City, compared to $42,500 for NYPD and $45,196 for firefighters.


"Since COVID hit our city, members have been leaving in droves. I've never seen anything like it," Barzilay said.

The city says the EMS retirement rate is about the same as it was pre-pandemic, but the union argues that does not account for EMTs who left for different jobs.

"We're starting to see people do other things, other avenues to just get a break from the mental aspect of it and the physical part of it," Wilson said.

Wilson now works as an instructor at the EMS academy, which her son, Javon Fabien, is getting ready to enter.

"I fell in love with it and definitely followed in my mom's footsteps," Fabien said.

They're not giving up on EMS, but as a teacher, Wilson can prepare the next generation for what's to come.

"My main thing is being safe and making sure you go home to your family at the end of the day," Wilson said.

CORONAVIRUS: NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1-(888)-364-3065 | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311, Text COVID to 692692 | NJ COVID-19 Info Hub | NJ Call 1-(800)-222-1222 or 211, Text NJCOVID to 898211 | CT Health Dept. | CT Call 211 | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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