Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics evaluate and provide emergency medical care to those with illnesses or injuries. They treat patients at the location of the crisis and also while transporting them to the hospital. They provide vital care to those injured by automobile accidents, slips and falls and those suffering from heart attacks, strokes and other ailments. Emergency treatment is provided under the direction of doctors.
Responsibilities of EMTs and Paramedics
While transporting patients to a medical facility, one EMT drives while another monitors the patient's vital signs and provides care. Some EMTs are part of a helicopter flight crew. All EMTs should be able to perform the following tasks:
- Determine if a patient has pre-existing health conditions
- Report observations and treatments provided to patients to emergency department personnel
- Stock supplies
- Follow medical protocol and guidelines
- Make sure equipment is functioning properly
- Decontaminate the interior of the ambulance if the patient had a contagious disease
- Report working on a patient who had a contagious disease to the appropriate authorities
The specific responsibilities of emergency medical technicians and paramedics are determined by their qualifications and training.
EMT-Basic personnel are trained to care for patients at accident scenes and while transporting them to medical facilities under medical direction. They have the skills to assess a patient's condition and manage cardiac, respiratory and trauma emergencies. EMT-Intermediate personnel have more advanced training.
EMT-Paramedics are able to give the most extensive pre-hospital patient care. They can give drugs to their patients orally and intravenously, and they are trained to interpret electrocardiograms, use monitors and other types of sophisticated equipment, and are allowed to perform more-advanced medical procedures. The procedures that EMT-Intermediates and paramedics are allowed to perform vary by state.
EMT and Paramedic Job Characteristics
EMTs and paramedics play an important role in the world of health care, and there are a number of key skills that the job demands.
- They must be good team players, as they frequently work as team members with police and firefighters.
- The job is often stressful and strenuous, involving kneeling, bending and lifting, sometimes in perilous conditions.
- They run the risk of exposure to diseases.
- They need to work well under pressure.
- EMTs and paramedics employed by hospitals often work 46 to 60 hours a week.
- Those who work for private ambulance services usually work between 45 and 50 hours a week.
- Those employed by fire departments work about 50 hours a week.
- In general, EMTs and paramedics often have irregular working hours.
EMT and Paramedic Salary Information
In 2014, about 40 percent of EMTs and paramedics were employed by private ambulance services and about 30 percent were employed by local governments, public ambulance services, fire departments and emergency medical services. About 20 percent worked in hospitals or responded to calls with ambulances or helicopters.
- Total Employed: 235,760 in 2014
- Job Growth: 23% from 2012-2022
- Average Salary: $35,110 in 2014
Private ambulance services should provide the best opportunities for employment. Local governments and independent, third-service rescue squad departments pay higher salaries and better benefits, so competition for jobs from those employers will be keen. Those with advanced education and certifications have the best job prospects.
Education, Certification and Licensing for EMTs and Paramedics
Candidates for emergency medical technician education programs typically need a high school diploma. Training is provided at progressive levels: EMT-Basic, EMT-Intermediate and EMT-Paramedic. Coursework is usually combined with training in ambulances and emergency rooms.
All states require that EMTs and paramedics be licensed, although the requirements vary. Most EMTs will need to pass a practical and written national exam in order to get the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians certification they'll need to be licensed. Some states have their own exam in addition to the national one. EMT and paramedic candidates also need to pass a special driving course as well as a background check. EMTs and paramedics typically have to get recertified every two years.
Major Employers of EMTs and Paramedics
- Private ambulance services
- Local governments
- Fire departments
Resources for EMTs
- National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, EMS Division
- National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians
- National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians, Nov. 12, 2015, http://www.naemt.org/
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, EMS Division, Nov. 12, 2015, http://www.ems.gov/
- National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians, Nov. 12. 2015, http://www.nremt.org/
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, EMTs and Paramedics, Nov. 14, 2015, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/emts-and-paramedics.htm
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2014, Nov. 11, 2015, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292041.htm