People’s lives often depend on the quick reaction and competent care of emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics. Incidents as varied as automobile accidents, heart attacks, gunshot wounds, slips and falls require immediate medical attention. EMTs and paramedics provide this vital service as they care for and transport the sick or injured to a medical facility. Many people find the work of an EMT or paramedic exciting and challenging, and they enjoy the opportunity to help others.
In an emergency, EMTs and paramedics are typically dispatched by a 911 operator to the scene, where they often work with police and fire fighters. Once they arrive, EMTs and paramedics assess the nature of the patient’s condition, while trying to determine whether the patient has any pre-existing medical conditions. Following protocols and guidelines, they provide emergency care and transport the patient in an ambulance to a medical facility. Some paramedics work as part of a helicopter’s flight crew to quickly transport critically ill or injured patients to hospital trauma centers.
EMTs and paramedics also provide transportation for patients from one medical facility to another, particularly if they work for private ambulance services. Patients often need to be transferred to a hospital that specializes in treating their injury or illness or to facility that provides long-term care, like nursing homes.
The specific responsibilities of EMTs and paramedics depend on their level of qualification and training. EMTs are qualified to provide basic and intermediate care, while paramedics provide more extensive pre-hospital care than do EMTs. Paramedics receive training in anatomy and physiology as well as advanced medical skills. So in addition to carrying out the procedures of the other levels, paramedics administer medications, interpret electrocardiograms (EKGs), and use monitors and other complex equipment.
Almost all community colleges and some state colleges and hospitals offer EMT training. This is usually a three-month course that can be completed as part of other curriculum. Individuals will need to take a certification examination. Education for a paramedic requires clinical and field experience in addition to graduating from a school and passing the certification exam.
EMTs and paramedics employed by fire departments work 40-50 hours per week; those employed by hospitals frequently work between 40-60 hours per week; and those employed by private ambulance services work between 45-50 hours per week. The employment need for EMTs is expected to grow faster than the average of all other occupations through 2012.