Paramedic Future Prospects
Emergency medicine has come a long way. As recently as 1965, there was no law in place that allowed a paramedic to administer CPR, even though the technique was becoming widely used in ambulances. Frustrated paramedics who wanted to be able to put their training to use and save lives dubbed themselves “Impotent Wonders.” Ronald Reagan, who was governor of California at the time, enacted laws in 1970 that allowed paramedics to perform advanced medical techniques and other duties that were previously reserved for physicians.
Ever since then, the role of a paramedic has continued to expand. The modern paramedic is a highly trained individual working at the top level of their profession. In the course of a typical paramedic training program, students master the foundations of anatomy, chemistry and biology. They learn to solve minor bleeding and airway problems, as well as serious cardiac and respiratory conditions. They become skilled at calculating dosages, administering medications, and performing surgical procedures such as suturing.
In addition to new responsibilities, paramedics today enjoy more diverse opportunities for career advancement through educational development. Paramedics who are experiencing job-related stress or simply want to broaden their career opportunities can pursue further education in accredited online programs such as the Paramedic-to-RN bridge program, EMS Management or Healthcare Management. Paramedics can also transition into being physician’s assistants or working in the business sector.
“I started my career as a paramedic and spent a great deal of time with the staff of Children's Hospital back in Buffalo, N.Y.,” says one certified emergency nurse. “My desire to learn more and work in the emergency department prompted me to go back to school and get my nursing degree.” Paramedic-to-RN degrees are now offered by many campus based schools, and busy working paramedics can even take advantage an accredited online Paramedic-to-RN program that accommodates the busy and irregular schedules of EMS & fire service professionals and offers a valid means become an RN in just 18 months with no classroom attendance required.
Another popular career track for burned-out paramedics is management. Degrees like Emergency Management, Disaster Management, or Healthcare Management appeal to paramedics who want to continue working in a related field but are ready to wave goodbye to grueling hours and constant pressure. “The ambulance service is a caring job about helping people,” explains one former paramedic who is now a manager at a community for the homeless in Bristol. “You experience life in all its ways as a paramedic and I worked with a lot of homeless people who were ill or had been injured. After my experiences, I wanted to find another caring job. Both jobs are about good people skills, particularly working with people in crisis who are suffering.”
Currently, although there are many academic programs to which the skills of a paramedic can transition well, the Online Paramedic-to-RN Bridge Program is the only formal educational track specifically geared towards paramedics. As the role of a paramedic continues to evolve, more degree programs aimed at paramedics are expected to become popular.
“The future of emergency medicine is wide open,” says Doug Greene, manager of the telemedicine research team in a California clinical center. “…As (a paramedic’s) initial training becomes more sophisticated that will give them a better foundation on which to choose further education. Paramedics will have more choices in the next decades than ever before.”
Paramedics starting out today don’t have to worry about becoming trapped in a job that, for all its benefits, after a few years can feel exhausting and financially under-compensated. In a world where career shifts are the norm and health care is constantly improving, even more educational and career advancement opportunities for paramedics are just over the horizon.