The Scoop on EMTs and Paramedics

What does it take to do the job of an EMT or Paramedic on a daily basis?

This is a 24/7 profession with life and death decisions every time you come to the aid of people who are in distress. If you are faint of heart - this might not be the job for you.

What in the World Does an EMTs or Paramedics Do?

EMT's are actually "Emergency Medical Technicians" (I know, that makes it sound WAY more important.) EMTs are sometimes called Paramedics, and, though these terms are used interchangeably, technically, they are not the same thing.

If you are working as an EMT, you are dispatched to emergency scenes by 911 operators to aid people who are hurt or in distress. You can provide just about any possible kind of medical care: CPR, setting bones, taking vital signs, subduing emotionally distressed individuals, etc. Anything that people need, you can do. In addition, a Paramedic can run IVs and administer drugs that are emergently necessary. Therein lies the difference between EMTs and Paramedics. Just think about the word (Paramedics are Medics who are in the field.) Just like Medics in the military can run IVs and administer drugs, so can a Paramedic coming out of an ambulance or helicopter.

What Kind of Training do I need (A.K.A. - Will I have to go to School?)

Unlike many other medical jobs, EMT's do not go to school at Colleges and Universities. The training programs for EMT's are offered at vocational schools and community colleges that provide a certificate of training, not a Degree or Diploma.

EMT training begins with "Basic," where your responsibilities are limited. "Intermediate" training can add considerable more responsibility, depending on your state's regulations. The "Paramedic" level is the highest level with the most responsibility, sometimes supervising the other levels of EMT. Always, the EMT team reports to the emergency medical team of their hospital and is required to report each case when the patient(s) are delivered. After any run, the EMT team must restock and clean the ambulance in anticipation of the next emergency run. This kind of work is demanding, exciting and rewarding. Physically moving the patient from the scene of the accident can be difficult. Working within the medical timeframes to save a life can energizing and satisfying when things work out. Even when they don't, concentrating on the next job is required.

After you have completed your training, you will need to get certified by the NREMT (National Registry of EMTs). Typically, this is required by the state after you finish your training, but it also makes you look much more attractive to potential employers. Some other states require that you get a license from the State Medical Board, so check for the rules where you live.

How Do I get One of These Jobs Anyways?

You can usually get a job with a Local Fire Department, Hospital, or Independent Ambulance Service. Each place requires different working hours and differing amounts of responsibility.

With an Ambulance service, you may be waiting in the ambulance ready to jump out and offer care (because someone else was driving). This also means that you go to the closest hospital or the hospital that the patient needs, because you are independent. If you work for the Fire Department, you are usually dispatched with Firemen. If you work for a Hospital, you would be required to ride in and out of that Hospital only. It also means that you might need to aid in the transportation of patients from one hospital to another. In this case, it is better to be a full-on Paramedic so that you can care for the patient as you transport them.

Advancement in the field usually means you get more training (moving from level to level) or by getting into teaching at a training program. These jobs might be a good stepping-stone for someone who wants to become a nurse, doctor or fireman, but wants an exciting, medically important job in the meantime.

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Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics Overview

Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedic Salary:$29,330
Job Prospects:B
Education after high school:0.2 years
# Employed in US:207,610
% Who work Part Time:18%
Physical Difficulty:+ + + + +
Intellectual Difficulty:+ + + +
Emotional Difficulty:+ + + +

The Pros of being an Paramedic or EMT

  • Training can be done in levels so you don't have to do it all at once
  • The training doesn't require going to college (which makes it cheaper)
  • You get to turn the siren on & run through red lights.
  • You can advance yourself by getting greater training OR by teaching

The Cons of being an Paramedic or EMT

  • You will have to rush to emergency situations that most people avoid
  • You will deal regularly with people who are in despair
  • You may have a hard time dealing with the emotions surrounding the stressful situations your job takes you to