Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and Paramedic

How quickly emergency medical technicians (EMTs) or paramedics respond to accidents or emergencies can determine whether a person lives or dies. EMTs respond to car accidents, strokes, and freak accidents to provide immediate medical treatment and transport people to hospitals.

911 dispatchers direct EMTs to accident scenes. Upon arrival, EMTs must determine how to help accident victims and assess whether they have preexisting health problems. If the patient needs to be treated by a doctor, EMTs must safely transport victims to a hospital. EMTs have the medical understanding to assist people with minor health problems or injuries.

EMTs and paramedics must be familiar with the technology and devices necessary to assist and treat people seriously ill or injured. Paramedics and EMTs work together to help patients. For example, when moving a patient to a hospital, a paramedic drives the ambulance while others attend to patients. Certain paramedics are assigned to work on life flight helicopters.

Upon arrival at the hospital, EMTs notify doctors of patients' conditions and move the patients to the necessary room to receive treatment. After patients are being treated by doctors, EMTs inspect their equipment, so it be reused and restock their ambulances. They must also sterilize equipment and the ambulance.

EMTs often transport patients to other hospitals to receive specialized treatment, especially EMTs employed by privately owned ambulance businesses.

EMTs and paramedics can only perform procedures they are certified or trained for. The National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) has the following certification levels: first responder, EMT intermediate, with 2 sub certifications known as 1985 and 1999, and paramedic. However, certification levels are often determined by individual states.

EMTs that have completed the EMT basic certification are trained to perform basic medical treatments and transport patents to hospitals. Those certified at this level can determine the medical conditions of patients and operate equipment designed to assist patients with cardiac and respiratory problems.

To become EMT intermediate certified, EMTs must undergo additional training. Specific responsibilities for EMTs completing this certification level usually differ between states.

Those certified as paramedics, are qualified to inject patients with drugs and review electrocardiograms (EKGs) and other diagnostic medical technology. Their duties differ in each state.

Work environment. Emergency response professionals work in all kinds of weather conditions. The nature of their job requires them to knell, lift heavy loads, and contort their bodies in awkward positions. Because they work around loud sirens and lift heavy loads, these professionals can experience hearing and back problems. Likewise, emergency response professionals must be careful to avoid being infected with AIDS and other diseases transmitted through blood, and they must be prepared to assist patients in shock or emotionally distraught. Assisting people involved in accidents can be very stressful. However, many find satisfaction through helping people in need.

Emergency response professionals working for fire departments frequently work 50 hour weeks. EMTs and paramedics working at hospitals work 45-60 hour weeks while those in private industry work 45-50 hour weeks, and it is not uncommon to be on call. Since emergencies occur during all hours of the day, EMTs have erratic schedules.

Education and Training

Most EMT and Paramedic training programs require that applicants hold a high school degree at a minimum. There are three levels of EMS certification:

  • EMT – Basic
  • EMT – Intermediate
  • Paramedic

Police and fire departments, universities and colleges, hospitals, and vocational and community colleges offer EMT and Paramedic training programs.

Employment Outlook

The Department of Labor estimates that job growth for EMTs and Paramedics will increase by 9 percent through 2018, on pace with projected in other industries.

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