Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT), also known as paramedics, are in many cases the critical link between life and death for many who suffer injury or serious illness in their homes and on the streets. They are highly-trained to give advanced first-aid for a variety of serious mishaps.
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At a Glance
Other Job Titles: Paramedic
Salary Range*: $20,000-$53,000; Median $31,000
Education/Training Required: EMT training program; Associate’s degree
Desired Skills/Aptitude: Physical strength, communication skills, compassion, problem-solving ability
Certification/Licensing: Certification by NREMT; All states require licensure
Locations with Best Opportunities: Nevada, Washington, Maryland, Alaska
Employment Outlook: Increase by 33% through 2020 (much faster than average)
Opportunities for Advancement: Supervisory roles or advancement to other medical professions; taking higher levels of EMT courses provide advancement as well
What an EMT Does
EMTs respond to a variety of mishaps to include automobile accidents, gunshot wounds, drowning, heart attacks, and the list goes on. The primary duty of an EMT is to give emergency care to a person who has suffered a mishap before taking them to the hospital. This first requires assessing the mishap that the victim has suffered or is suffering from. Then, the EMT takes the prescribed first actions or seeks advice from the medical staff at the hospital as to what needs to be done to stabilize the victim. Once they get the victim stabilized their other tasks include:
- Giving any emergency treatment
- Coordinate with police and firefighters when necessary
- Immobilizing the victim to prevent further injury (if necessary)
- Transporting the victim to the hospital
- Communicating with medical staff and the dispatcher at the hospital for advisement on the victim’s condition while en route
- Comforting the victim while en route to the hospital
Emergency treatment could be CPR which all EMTs are required to be trained in. Other forms of emergency treatment can include techniques to stop the bleeding, clear the victim’s airway, or revive a victim whose heart has stopped.
Most EMTs don’t work for hospitals at all. They work for ambulance services. In fact, if you have ever been transported in an ambulance you will oftentimes get a separate bill from the treatment bill at the hospital facility.
Their daily work in metropolitan areas can take them anywhere and in all types of weather conditions and at all hours. Such is the nature of emergencies. The job also presents a higher than usual risk of injury because of victims with contagious diseases or who are belligerent and violent.
Education and Certification
The first requirement to becoming an EMT is to complete a state-approved training program. A prerequisite to entering this program is to complete training in CPR and be certified in it. This formal training program can be taken at a technical, vocational, or community college.
Training programs are taken by students at three levels: EMT-Basic, EMT-Advanced, and Paramedic. The EMT Advanced course is sometimes referred to as the EMT-Intermediate 1985 or EMT-Intermediate 1999 course. Nonetheless, there are two levels and paramedics are the ones who have completed both.
EMT training at the basic level teaches the basics such as assessment of the victim’s condition, clearing airways, and using EMT equipment. The program is for 100 hours.
EMT training at the intermediate/advanced level is a 1,000-hour program of study and covers advanced topics such as administering certain types of medication and IV fluids.
Paramedic training, in addition to the two levels of EMT training, requires that the student learn medical skills that are more advanced in nature. These advanced skills might include learning how to administer IVs or put first stitches in wounds.
All EMTs must be certified which means passing the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians exam. The exam has two parts--a written and hands-on. Licensure is required in every state however specific requirements may vary. Nonetheless, all states require certification before licensure.
*Salary Source: BLS May 2012