An emergency medical technician (EMT) or paramedic is trained to deliver emergency medical care to patients in a hospital setting or wherever it is needed. They are often among the first to arrive at the scene of an accident, a natural disaster or any number of medical emergencies. It is an exciting career choice for someone who thrives in chaotic situations but can still remain calm, composed and focused.
Imagine never knowing what is going to happen next on the job, only that it may involve an emergency and medical care. EMT and paramedic training can help prepare individuals to respond to life-threatening medical conditions and manage patient care during transport. It goes without saying that the job of an EMT or paramedic is different every day. Many EMTs and paramedics also find that the challenges they face provide an adrenaline rush as they work with others to save lives and help people in need. Read on to learn more about this type of medical professional, EMT job information, and EMT and paramedic schools.
A Day in the Life of an EMT or Paramedic
There are two primary roles in this health care field: the EMT and the paramedic. An EMT has the most entry-level job, although there are two different skill levels (EMT and EMT-1) associated with it. A paramedic has more advanced responsibilities in the field, having the most education and a greater scope of practice than an EMT.
On the job, the primary goal is to stabilize the patient. This may involve an EMT providing CPR or wound care, giving patients oxygen and even help treat asthma attacks or reactions to allergies. Paramedics do much more, such as starting intravenous lines, helping to resuscitate patients or providing support in the case of a heart attack, stroke or trauma. EMTs and paramedics both have the ability to transport patients.
That said, EMTs and paramedics often love being part of a team in these life-and-death situations, a team that can include other first responders such as police officers and firefighters. They can work long hours, sometimes 12- or 24-hour shifts, which can make the job exhausting in more ways than one. Even though their day is never planned in advance, EMTs and paramedics can be sure of one thing — that they may well be the people responding to 911 calls and those coming in through the ER doors.
Important Characteristics for EMTs and Paramedics
Hardly a career for the faint of heart, an EMT or paramedic needs a wide range of skills and abilities to be successful. While some of these skill sets can vary, EMTs and paramedics mostly need to be smart, focused, compassionate, and have physical and mental strength.
The ability to listen and solve problems is necessary to assess what is wrong quickly. Communication and interpersonal skills are paramount since an EMT or paramedic can be called upon to work with children, doctors, a grieving parent or a patient in extreme distress. Coping skills are also important since the extreme situations an EMT or paramedic encounters may include saving a patient's life or witnessing a tragic death.
Typical Steps for Becoming an EMT or Paramedic
To become an EMT, a person typically needs to complete a non-degree program at a vocational school or community college; although a paramedic may need to pursue more education such as an associate degree. The details below outline how to become an EMT or paramedic step by step.
- Complete a certificate or diploma program or an associate degree. Students can find a wide range of EMT and paramedic training programs in the field that typically take a year or less to complete. Associate degrees take longer, however, and are usually geared toward becoming a paramedic. EMT and paramedic courses vary from school to school, though, so here is a sampling of program names you might find at different EMT and paramedic schools:
- Emergency Medical Technician Diploma
- Emergency Medical Technician Technical Diploma
- Advanced EMT Diploma
- EMT-Paramedic Diploma
- EMT Applied Technology Diploma
- Paramedic Technician Degree
- Paramedic Associate Degree
- Emergency Medical Technology-Paramedic Associate's Degree, Arizona State University, Accessed September 2017, https://www.an.edu/programs/paramedic-associates/
- EMTs and Paramedics, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2016-17 Occupational Outlook Handbook, Accessed September 2017, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/emts-and-paramedics.htm#tab-4
- EMT and Paramedic Technicians, Gateway Technical College, Accessed September 2017, https://www.gtc.edu/programs/emt-and-paramedic-technician
- Emergency Medical Technician Technical Diploma, Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, Accessed September 2017, https://www.nwtc.edu/programs/fields-of-interest/law-public-safety-and-security/emergency-and-fire-management-services/emergency-medical-technician
- What's the Difference Between an EMT and Paramedic? UCLA Center for Prehospital Care, Accessed September 2017, https://www.cpc.mednet.ucla.edu/node/27