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Penn State Health Life Lion addresses staffing issues with newly acquired training program 

Penn State Health Life Lion’s first group of emergency medical technicians (EMTs) is set to graduate from the emergency medical services (EMS) company’s new four-month training program this month—a first for the company as it works to tackle staffing shortages. 

Recruiting, training and hiring new EMTs through a training program has become a norm in the industry that Hershey-based Life Lion didn’t see itself needing until the pandemic began straining its workforce, said Scott Buchle, director of Life Lion. 

“Emergency medical services has been facing a growing staffing shortage for years. Penn State Health has been able to weather that storm and the Life Lion name has continued to attract people in,” said Buchle. “Some neighboring services have started bringing people in with little to no experience, they would offer an EMT class and hire people with no experience, train them and they would go to work right away.” 

Today Life Lion is seeing the industry-wide staff shortages at its own facilities across seven counties. Those shortages are partly due to COVID-19 burnout among staff and from a series of acquisitions by Life Lion that brought on new facilities with already existing staffing problems, said Buchle. 

Late last year Life Lion acquired EMS services through Penn State Health’s purchase of Geisinger Holy Spirit in Cumberland County. Life Lion also acquired Susquehanna Valley Emergency Medical Services in York and Lancaster this summer. 

Life Lion acquired its new training facility, located in Mount Joy, Lancaster County, through its acquisition with Susquehanna Valley. 

“Susquehanna Valley EMS was already doing this EMT training program,” said Buchle. “When they came over to us it was a turnkey venture. We had to be certified by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, but they already had two years of doing this with great success.” 

The program can currently churn out 15 trained EMTs over the course of four months—something that Buchle would like to see expand in the future. 

For individuals looking to carve a path for themselves in health care, Life Lion’s training program offers something that similar programs at other EMS companies cannot, said Buchle. 

“A lot of times when people go to work in an EMS agency, they may not have a lot of educational opportunities– not many rungs on the ladder to climb,” he said. “We have really good educational benefits. People can be an EMT and go onto paramedic school or nursing school. I have also had EMS providers go on to med school.”