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EMT and Paramedic Programs

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Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics come to the scene of an emergency and care for patients as they're transported to the hospital or emergency room. The main difference between EMTs and paramedics is that paramedics have more hours of training than EMTs and can do a few more tasks, including giving shots.

EMT and paramedic programs can prepare students for a career as an EMT or paramedic, by providing training in advanced first aid care, ranging from basic life support to CPR. These programs may also prepare students for careers as an emergency room technician and a career in fire service.

EMT and Paramedic Education Programs

Becoming an EMT or paramedic usually requires completion of formal EMT or paramedic training programs. These programs are offered at community colleges, technical institutes and facilities that specialize in emergency care training. Before students can enter these programs, though, they must have a high school diploma (or the equivalent) and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification.

The EMT-Basic level requires 100 hours of training and possibly further training in a hospital or ambulance setting. Students may learn how to assess the conditions of patients, handle cardiac and trauma emergencies, and use field equipment. The Advanced EMT level typically requires 1,000 hours of training, where beyond completing the EMT-Basic level, students learn how to use complex airway devices, some medications and intravenous fluids. Paramedics must take about 1,300 hours of training at paramedic schools (which could take two years), where they complete both EMT-Basic and Advanced EMT training, as well as learning practices like stitching wounds and administering IV medications.

A few courses a student may take at paramedic or EMT training schools may include:

  • Emergency Medical Technician -- Teaches basic skills for working in an ambulance, including CPR, obstetrical and pediatric emergency care, and respiratory, medical, environmental and traumatic emergency preparation.
  • EMT Skills -- Pre-hospital assessment and how to deal with patients experiencing cardiac and respiratory emergencies, including operating a defibrillator and learning advanced airway management.
  • Paramedic Theory -- Human Systems -- Applying the terminology of medicine with an overview of the major body systems and homeostatic mechanisms.

Certification and Licensure

All states in the U.S. require EMTs and paramedics to be licensed, with requirements varying by state. In most states, someone who gets certified through the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) can obtain licensure. There are 46 states that use NREMT for one or more Emergency Medical Services (EMS) levels. Some states require a passing grade on an equivalent state exam. Applicants are generally required to be at least 18 and may expect to have a background check required.

Work Environment and Typical Responsibilities

EMTs and paramedics work in stressful situations, at the scene of emergencies and on the commute to the hospital. A lot of work happens on the way to the ambulance itself, but the EMT and paramedic must also get the patient to the vehicle, requiring being outdoors in all kinds of weather.

Some of the many responsibilities of an EMT and paramedic may include:

  • Administering first aid or life support to injured or sick individuals outside of the hospital, which requires performing emergency procedures, such as stomach suction or airway management during the ambulance ride.
  • Placing patients on the stretcher and ambulance transport, using different spinal immobilization devices.
  • Reporting to the physician observations and records of the patient's condition or injury, the treatment that was provided and the patient's reactions to the treatment.
  • Comforting and calming patients.
  • Maintaining vehicles, cleaning, repairing and replacing medical and communication equipment, and replenishing first aid equipment and supplies.

Salary Information and Employment Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in May 2012 the national mean hourly wage for EMTs and paramedics was $16.53 and the national mean annual wage was $34,370 (bls.gov/oes, 2013). The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 33 percent employment growth for EMTs and paramedics between 2010 and 2020 (bls.gov/ooh, 2012).

Sources:

Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: EMTs and Paramedics
Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2012
O*Net Online: Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics
About.com First Aid:The Difference Between an EMT and a Paramedic
National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians
City College of San Francisco: Health Care Technology
Cosumnes River College: Emergency Medical Technology
College of San Mateo: Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)


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