Career Profile: Why Pursue A Paramedic EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) Career?

Nurse Anesthesiologist

Also Called: EMT, Paramedic

Job Description:

Paramedic EMTs play a crucial role in our emergency care operations. As the first trained operatives to arrive at the scene of an incident, they are trained to respond to and care for patients at in situations such as such as automobile accidents, heart attacks, childbirth, victims of gun violence, and many others. A 911 operator dispatches paramedic EMTs to the scene. Once there, they determine the extent of the patient's condition, and give appropriate emergency care (following strict guidelines), all while keeping in mind whether the patient has preexisting medical problems. Paramedic EMTs are trained to treat patients with minor injuries on the scene; they also transport patients requiring more advanced care to hospitals via ambulance, often working with doctors while in transport over the radio, monitoring patient's conditions and relaying vital information to the hospital ahead of arrival.

Paramedic EMTs and paramedics are basically the same - a paramedic is an EMT with additional, advanced training, which allows them to perform more difficult prehospital medical procedures. The other levels of EMT are: First-Responders, EMT-Basic (EMT-1), EMT-Intermediate (EMT-2 and EMT-3), and EMT-Paramedic (EMT-4). First responders include firefighters, police officers, and other emergency workers that are often the first on the scene.

Beyond these general duties, the specific responsibilities of EMTs and paramedics depend on their level of qualification and training. To determine this, the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) registers emergency medical service (EMS) providers at four levels: First Responder, EMT-Basic, EMT-Intermediate and EMT-Paramedic. Some states, however, do their own certification and use numeric ratings from one to four to distinguish levels of proficiency.

The EMT-Intermediate (EMT-2 and EMT-3) has more advanced training that allows the administration of intravenous fluids, the use of manual defibrillators to give life-saving shocks to a stopped heart, and the application of advanced airway techniques and equipment to assist patients experiencing respiratory emergencies. EMT-Paramedics (EMT-4) provide the most extensive prehospital care. In addition to carrying out the procedures already described, paramedics may administer drugs orally and intravenously, interpret electrocardiograms (EKGs), and perform endotracheal intubations, and use monitors and other complex equipment.

Work Environment:

Paramedic EMTs work in a variety of settings and situations. The work involves a good deal of strenuous physical activity (kneeling, bending, heavy lifting), as well as a constant barrage of stressful, life-or-death situations. Paramedic EMTs may be exposed to diseases such as hepatitis-B and AIDS, as well as violence from drug-overdose victims or mentally unstable patients.

Depending on the employer, Paramedic EMTs work between 45 and 60 hours per week. Those employed by fire and police departments work around 50 hours a week, and are on call for extended periods of time. Paramedic EMTs who work for hospitals typically work 45-60 hours, and those employed by private ambulance services work between 45 and 50 hours. As emergencies can occur at any time, many paramedic EMTs have irregular working hours, adding to job stress.

Nonetheless, many people find the work exciting, challenging, and thrive in this career providing crucial help to patients and accident victims.

Education and Training Requirements:

Training is offered at progressive levels: EMT-Basic (EMT-1); EMT-Intermediate (EMT-2 and EMT-3); and EMT-Paramedic (EMT-4). Formal courses are often combined with time in an emergency room or ambulance. Training specifics for each level will vary from state to state, and you have to progress in order, i.e. there is no direct jump from EMT-Basic to EMT-Paramedic. Each level requires additional coursework and training.

All 50 states have a certification procedure to become a paramedic EMT. To maintain certification, EMTs and paramedics must reregister, usually every two years. In order to reregister, an individual must be working as a paramedic EMT and meet a continuing-education requirement.

Salary Range:

Earnings of EMTs and paramedics depend on your level of training, employment setting, and geographic location. Median annual earnings of EMTs and paramedics were $24,030 in 2002. The following are representative median incomes of certified EMTs and paramedics under the most popular employers:

  • Local government: $27,440
  • General medical and surgical hospitals: $24,760
  • Other ambulatory healthcare services: $22,180

Those in emergency medical services who are part of fire or police departments receive the same benefits as firefighters or police officers.

Job Outlook:

Employment of emergency medical technicians and paramedics is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations through 2012. Paid positions are in increased demand, due to population growth, urbanization trends, and the general aging of the population - as the population gets older (and more likely to have medical emergencies), the demand for highly trained professionals increases. Part-time and volunteer EMTs and paramedics are still in demand in rural areas and smaller metropolitan areas.

Most opportunities for paramedic EMTs are expected to be found in private ambulance services. Competition will be greater for jobs in local government (fire and police stations, for example), as the salaries and benefits are better. Opportunities will be best for those who have advanced certifications, such as EMT-Intermediate and EMT-Paramedic.

Advancement beyond the EMT-Paramedic is possible as well. Some certified EMTs and paramedics become instructors, emergency dispatchers, or physician assistants. The experience gained as an EMT or paramedic can also be applied to an advanced degree and career in healthcare, and many EMTs return to school to become registered nurses, doctors, or other health workers.

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