What do EMTs do? Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics use special equipment to immobilize patients, treat wounds and monitor vital signs during medical emergencies and subsequent transfer to a hospital or other medical facility. Typically dispatched by a 911 operator, they work closely with police and fire fighters at accident or emergency scenes.
Some EMTs and paramedics work on helicopter flight crews to move critically ill or injured patients over longer distances. Emergency medical technicians and paramedics communicate vital patient information to emergency medical personnel and may provide additional treatment. Other job duties include documenting calls, decontaminating ambulances, replacing supplies and maintaining equipment.
Specific daily work duties vary, depending on the locality, skills and training of the EMT or paramedic. Certified first responders care for patients at the scene of an accident and during transport to hospitals, typically under the supervision of highly-trained personnel. More extensive procedures such as administering medications, performing endotracheal intubations and monitoring complex conditions are performed by certified EMT-Intermediates or paramedics.
EMT and Paramedics Job Summary
- Many states require emergency medical technicians and paramedics to be certified or licensed.
- Work hours are often irregular.
- Job opportunities in this field will be best for individuals with advanced certifications.
- The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that job growth will be as fast as the average for all occupations.
Work Environment for Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics
Emergency medical technicians and paramedics work indoors and outdoors, year-round. They are at higher risk of exposure to illnesses and communicable diseases, such as HIV and hepatitis-B, and they experience more on-the-job injuries than other occupations, according to the BLS. In addition, they may have to deal with mentally unstable or combative patients and the associated risk of violence or injury. EMTs and paramedics’ jobs are physically strenuous, with considerable kneeling, bending and heavy lifting. They can also be stressful. Still, many people find great excitement and satisfaction in this occupation. EMTs and paramedics often work more than 40 hours per week and irregular hours are typical.
Education, Training and Licensing
Formal training programs for emergency medical technicians and paramedics are generally open to individuals with high school diplomas. Certification is often required before an employer will hire an EMT or paramedic. The National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) provides five certification levels: First Responder, EMT-Basic, EMT-Intermediate (which has two levels) and Paramedic. Some states use different names and titles, based on their own certification programs.
Coursework at the basic level covers emergency medical skills, including managing respiratory and cardiac emergencies, assessing patients and handling various traumas. Typical program requirements include instruction in dealing with bleeding, fractures, cardiac arrest, emergency childbirth and other situations, along with time in an emergency department or ambulance. Students also learn how to use equipment like backboards, stretchers and splints. EMT-intermediate level training may range from 30 to 350 hours of instruction, depending on the state. Students learn advanced skills, like administering intravenous fluids and medications. Paramedic training consists of instruction in anatomy, physiology and advanced medical skills. Community and technical colleges offer one- and two-year certificate and associate’s degree programs that prepare graduates to take the NREMT examination and become certified as a paramedic.
All states require emergency medical technicians and paramedics to be licensed; requirements vary by location, but often include passing the NREMT or the state’s own examination. Licenses are renewed every two to three years, generally requiring continuing education.
Individuals who wish to pursue an EMT or paramedic career must be emotionally stable, with good overall physical condition and agility. They must be able to lift and carry heavy loads, and have good eyesight and accurate color vision. Job applicants are often subjected to criminal background checks.
Employment Figures, Projections, Outlook and Earnings
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) records for May 2009 show that emergency medical technicians and paramedics held approximately 217,920 jobs, mostly with ambulatory health care services. A smaller number hold jobs with local governments, hospitals and outpatient care centers.
What is the jobs outlook for EMTs and paramedics?The BLS predicts employment in this field will grow as fast as the average for all occupations. Job growth will occur as a result of an aging population and increasing numbers of emergency medical calls. Demand will further increase as hospital emergency departments become more overcrowded, and patients spend more time under the care of EMTs and paramedics.
How much do paramedics and EMTs earn e year? According to the BLS, EMTs and paramedics earned a median yearly salary of $30,000 in May 2009. The middle 50% earned between $23,650 and $39,250, while the lowest 10% had a yearly income of $19,360 or less. The highest 10% earned upwards of $51,460 annually.