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EMT and Paramedic Careers, Jobs and Training Information

Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and Paramedic Career and Job Highlights

  • Unpaid volunteers are being replaced by paid professionals.
  • Additional certification will give prospects an advantage when competing for jobs; competition is expected to be more intense for jobs with local fire and police departments than with private medical companies.
  • States require different things to become certified, though licensing and training are required to work.
  • Due to the life-and-death situations and irregular hours they face, EMTs and Paramedics deal with a lot of stress.

EMT and Paramedic Career Information and job Description

EMTs and paramedics are responsible for emergency medical care of persons involved in a number of incidents, including violent assaults, strokes, boating and car accidents, and serious injuries. In addition to quick reactions and professional care they provide, more specialized care can be provided by EMTs with extra training. All of this care is performed while transporting the patient to the hospital.

Coordinating their efforts with other emergency personnel, EMTs and paramedics arrive at the scene after being sent by 911 operators. Their primary focus upon arrival is to determine the injured persons condition and medical history. They then provide medical care based on pre-established norms. When possible, emergency medical personnel provide care at the patient’s home or at the scene without taking them to the hospital. However, when more serious medical attention is required, specialized doctors may talk the EMTs or paramedics through the procedures over the radio en route to the hospital.

EMTs and paramedics usually work in teams—one drives the ambulance while the other takes care of the patient, who has been placed on a stretcher and secured to the ambulance. In some situations EMTs and paramedics work as part of a helicopter crew that rushes patients to hospitals when extreme medical attention is required more quickly.

Upon arrival at the hospital, emergency medical personnel report what care they have provided, as well as information regarding the patient’s condition and injuries. They prepare their vehicle for the next call by replenishing their supplies and cleaning the interior if they have transported a patient with some kind of contagious disease.

There are several levels of EMTs and paramedics that determine the level of care they may provide. The National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) designates four levels: First Responder, EMT-Basic, EMT-Intermediate, and EMT-Paramedic. Other systems of ranking use numbers 1 through 4 to distinguish different levels, and states may determine which system they use.

Many emergency professionals like police and firefighters are certified first responders. They provide the most basic level of medical care because they usually are the first people to arrive at the scene.

EMT-1s, or EMT-Basics, are trained in basic cardiac, respiratory, and traumatic injury emergency care. They care for the patient en route to the hospital.

EMT-Intermediates, comprising EMT-2s and EMT-3s, have additional training that allows them to use defibrillators to restart a heart that has stopped, give fluids intravenously, and clear the airway using sophisticated techniques and equipment.

EMT-Paramedics, or EMT-4s, may perform all of the procedures the lower levels can plus give oral or intravenous drugs, read EKGs (electrocardiograms), do endotracheal intubations, and use a variety of complex equipment.

Several stressors contribute to the overall demand of employment in this field. Physical demands include kneeling, standing, and heavy lifting in all sorts of weather conditions; working long, irregular hours; and risking hearing loss from extended exposure to loud sirens. Dealing with patients in life and death situations can be very emotionally demanding. Exposure to diseases like AIDS and Hepatitis-B and violent drug users are additional stressors. However, the challenge and fulfillment from helping others lead many people to an enjoyable career in this field.

Emergency medical care is required 24 hours a day, so EMTs and paramedics often must work odd hours and be on call for long periods of time. Emergency medical personnel employed with private ambulance services work an average of 45 to 50 hours per week; with hospitals they work 45 to 60 hours a week; and those with fire departments average about 50 hours per week.

EMT and Paramedic Career Training and Job Qualifications

Every state and the District of Columbia require EMTs and paramedics to become certified, many requiring registration with the NREMT at some determined level; some states give their certification test. Continued employment as an emergency medical worker, reregistration every 2 years, and continuing education courses are required to maintain certification.

There are distinct levels of training—EMT-Basic and EMT-1; EMT-Intermediate and EMT-2 and EMT-3; and EMT-Paramedic and EMT-4. EMT-Basics receive training in cardiac and respiratory resuscitation skills, traumatic injury care, and injury assessment. They also learn about how to care for blocked breathing, heart attacks, severe bleeding, broken bones, and childbirth. Coursework is often supplemented with hands-on training in a hospital or emergency vehicle. Equipment training includes stretchers, backboards, splints and braces, and oxygen tanks. To earn the title Registered EMT-Basic, graduates from an approved program must pass a written and practical exam, usually administered by the State or NREMT. In order to receive more advanced EMT training, students must certify as EMT-Basics.

State requirements vary for EMT-Intermediate certification. EMT-Shock Trauma and EMT-Cardiac are two options for study. In the former, EMTs learn to administer some medicine and start IVs; in the latter, the EMT learned heart rhythms and how to give special medicines. Students must typically receive some 50 hours of extra training beyond their EMT-Basic training which includes coursework on IVs, pulmonary equipment and techniques, and diagnostic techniques. EMT-Basic, extra coursework, and some hours of practical experience are required to become an EMT-Intermediate.

EMT-Paramedic is the most advanced level of certification. This level involved many additional hours of coursework and hands on experience. Due to the length of training most EMT-Paramedics hold paid positions rather than volunteer spots. Given the nature of the work, continuing education courses are readily available for EMTs of all levels.

Correct color vision, good eyesight, coordination, excellent hand eye coordination, emotional stability, and the ability to lift heavy objects are all requirements to work in this field.

Directors of Emergency Services or EMT supervisors are often EMT-Paramedics who have been promoted and left the field. Many doctors and nurses are former EMTs who tested their compatibility with the healthcare field by working as an EMT. Other positions often occupied by former EMTs are dispatchers, instructors, and medical equipment sales persons.

EMT and Paramedic Job and Employment Opportunities

The field is shifting away from volunteer services toward paid professionals and the population grows and becomes more urbanized; job growth through 2012 is projected to be faster than normal. As the baby boomer generation ages, they will require more medical services, spurring more demand for EMTs and paramedics. Additional job openings will come as current EMTs leave the field because of modest pay, limited advancement opportunities, and stressful conditions. Volunteer and part-time jobs will be available among more rural populations.

Private ambulance services will provide the biggest number of jobs; competition is keen for the higher-paying jobs found in local fire and police departments. EMT-Intermediates and EMT-Paramedics have the best opportunities as people demand better and better care.