LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — When you are in a medical emergency, EMTs are usually the first to respond. But you may not realize how much they are getting paid to keep you alive.

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show nearly one-third of EMTs quit in 2021.

“I saw 1 October and it broke my heart. And once I was able to afford it I took the EMT class,” Sabreenia Morris said.

Morris said she finds passion in helping people at some of the worst times in their lives.

“It’s just the pay is so, so low,” Morris said.

Sabreenia Morris works as an EMT for Community Ambulance.

Morris said when she first started working with Community Ambulance a little over a year ago she was making $10 an hour.

“It’s just a lot of work, it is a lot of knowledge, a lot of risk for not a lot of pay,” Morris said.

The mother of two said her pay did increase to $13.21 but it is nowhere near the national median average pay for EMTs — $17.05.

“In a whole year, I made about before taxes $25,000 a year,” Morris said. “If I went back to my Walmart job they are paying $16 an hour to start and that’s just moving boxes.”

To help make ends meet, Morris became a surrogate while working full time as an EMT.

“We get worked pretty hard,” she said.

Ambulances in the yard outside Community Ambulance in Las Vegas. (Victoria Saha / 8NewsNow)

“If we could pay our employees more, we would,” Glen Simpson, the senior director for Community Ambulance said.

Simpson said reimbursement from insurance is a big reason for less pay.

“What a lot of people don’t realize is our collection rate on all ambulance bills across the board is less than 35%,” Simpson said.

Simpson said they have to respond to every call, but if they respond to a medical call and use their equipment, only to have the patient refuse transportation then they aren’t paid for their service.

Community Ambulance said they have switched over to having three 12-hour workdays for employees so they can have four days off.

AMR Medic West, another private ambulance company, said they have increased their wage for EMTs to just over $14 an hour.