For those interested in becoming a volunteer EMT, the Dukes County fire chiefs are hosting an open house at the regional high school dining hall on Dec. 6 from 5 to 7 p.m.

Although all six towns have full-time EMT staff, many night positions are filled with on-call volunteers, Edgartown fire chief Alex Schaeffer explained over the phone. A statewide shortage of EMT volunteers has left nearly a quarter of the Island’s shifts unfilled, he said, which runs the risk of stretching the existing staff too thin.

“We worry about burnout in our industry, which is why we want to get in a new generation,” Chief Schaeffer said.

The position pays $200 a night, with typical shifts spanning from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m., although Chief Schaeffer said that the EMT departments are willing to accommodate individual schedules.

Kara Shemeth has been a volunteer EMT in Edgartown since 2004, picking up roughly one shift a week on top of working at Edgartown's conservation commission and being a mom.

“When other people see my calendar, they think it’s crazy,” Ms. Shemeth said with a laugh, adding that her work as a volunteer is one of the most rewarding things she does.

“Just a couple months ago we got to help transport a newborn, which was amazing,” Ms. Shemeth said. “It’s such a small community you really feel like you’re making a difference...We see people on their worst day, and they may not even remember you, but seeing them out in public and knowing they’re safe is always a nice feeling.”

Ms. Shemeth also said that mental healthcare has become an increased concern since she joined the field, with the department providing access to counselors when needed and holding debriefs with the group after particularly stressful cases.

“We’ll all just talk it out and it helps,” she said. “It helps to not hold it all in.”

To become a volunteer EMT, individuals must complete a semester-long course with the Cape Cod Community College and pass a certification exam with the National Registry of EMTs. Although the processes are a little different, Chief Schaeffer said, each Island town offers scholarship options. The next available course begins in January, which is why Chief Schaeffer hopes Tuesday’s open house helps get the word out to the community.

“It’s one of the best things you can do for the community,” he said. “What you get back is remarkable.”