Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics Overview

Emergency medical technicians and paramedics should expect a fast as average employment growth, though opportunities should be best for those who have earned advanced certifications. Formal training and certification or licensure is normally required for emergency medical technicians and paramedics, however each State has its own requirements. Emergency medical technicians and paramedics work odd hours, as emergency services function 24 hours a day.

Nature of the Work for Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics

Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics are often responsible for peoples lives. Situations that require immediate medical attention such as slips and falls, childbirth, heart attacks, accidents and gunshot wounds require the presence of an EMT or paramedic. They care for and transport the injured or sick to a medical facility.

Emergency medical technicians and paramedics are assigned locations by a 911 operator and often work with fire fighters and police. While assessing the cause of the patient’s condition, they determine whether the patient has any pre-existing medical conditions. Under the supervision of a physician, they operate emergency medical service systems. Emergency medical technicians and paramedics must follow certain protocol and guidelines during emergency care and transfer of patients to the hospital.

Special equipment are used by emergency medical technicians and paramedics in order to immobilize patients before placing them on stretchers to transport them to a medical facility. Working in teams, one EMT or paramedic drives, while the other monitors the patient’s vital signs and provides additional care. Some work as part of a helicopters flight crew to transport critically injured or ill patients to hospital trauma centers.

Once at the medical facility, emergency medical technicians and paramedics transfer the patients to the emergency department. After reporting their actions and observations to the emergency department staff, they document the trip, check equipment and replace used supplies.

There are five levels for emergency medical technicians, as delineated by the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT): First Responder, EMT-Basic, EMT-Intermediate and Paramedic. However, some State have their own certification programs with different names and titles.

The EMT-Basic is the first to respond to a medical situation. They are prepared to care for patients at the scene of an accident and also while they are being transported to the hospital in an ambulance under the supervision of someone more highly trained. The EMT-Basic assesses the patient’s condition and handles cardiac, respiratory and trauma emergencies.

Specific tasks for an EMT-Intermediate vary by State, however they have more advanced training than an EMT-Basic. Paramedics are allowed to provide more intense pre-hospital care, such as administering intravenous or oral medications, perform endotracheal intubations and interpret electrocardiograms (EKGs). Their specific job duties varies from State to State.

Emergency medical technicians usually work more than 40 hours per week and have irregular hours because emergency services are operate 24 hours a day. They work indoors, outdoors and in all types of weather and must do a significant amount of bending, kneeling and heavy lifting. They might be exposed to communicable diseases, such as AIDs and hepatitis-B or contract other illnesses or injuries from patients. Emergency medical technicians and paramedics experience a larger than average number of work related injuries or illnesses, and the work is often physically and emotionally strenuous as they are often working in life or death situations. However, many people find this career challenging, exciting and rewarding.

Training, Other Qualifications and Advancement for Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics

Generally, all that is required to enter into a formal emergency medical technician training program is a high school diploma, however training is offered at each progressive level.

Coursework at the EMT-Basic level teaches emergency skills such as managing trauma, respiratory and cardiac emergencies as well as patient assessment. Students also spend time in an emergency department or ambulance. EMT-Basic level students practice dealing with fractures, airway obstruction, bleeding, emergency childbirth and cardiac arrest. They learn how to operate common emergency equipment. Approved EMT-Basic training graduates are required to successfully complete a practical and written examination administered by the NREMT or the State.

Usually, the EMT-Intermediate levels require 30 to 350 hours of training depending on the scope of practice. Although training requirements vary State to State, students typically learn advanced skills such as use of intravenous fluids, advanced airway devices and some medications.

Paramedics are the most advanced level of emergency workers. They receive training in physiology and anatomy as well as advanced medical skills. Usually training results in an associates degree and is conducted at 2-year technical schools or community colleges. Paramedic programs train students to take an NREMT examination to become certified. Continuing education is available for all levels of paramedics.

The levels and titles of licenses for emergency medical technicians and paramedics vary by State. Usually, certification by the NREMT is required, though some States offer than own certification examination or allow students to choose which test they take. Generally, emergency medical technicians and paramedics are required to renew their license every two to three years. Most states ban those with questionable criminal histories from obtaining licensure.

Paramedics and EMT’s should have excellent dexterity, physical coordination and agility. They must be emotionally stable as they often deal with stressful situations. Most employers mandate a criminal background check.

Paramedics may advance to become operations managers, supervisors or administrative directors. Some become dispatchers, physician assistants or instructors, while others move into marketing or sales of emergency medical equipment.

Employment and Job Outlook for Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics

Emergency medical technicians and paramedics hold close to 217,920 jobs and most work in metropolitan areas. About 29 percent of emergency medical technicians and paramedics work in local government, while about 45 percent work as employees of ambulance services. Those who work in hospitals make up 20 percent.

Emergency medical technicians and paramedics should expect an employment growth of 9 percent in the next decade, which is about as fast as average. Demand for this occupation grows with the aging population who increase the call volume. Emergency medical technicians and paramedics will see an increase in demand as the baby boomer generation becomes more likely to have medical emergencies. More workers are needed to meet the demand that is developing as hospitals are increasingly overcrowded, causing EMT drivers to divert the patient to a different hospital, which might not always be the closest.

As more hospitals specialize in treating a particular injury or illness, more patients are being transferred to the hospital to best treat them. In order for their condition to be monitored en route, patients must be transferred via ambulance. This causes a demand for emergency medical technicians and paramedics.

Part-time, volunteer EMTs and paramedics in small metropolitan and rural areas will also still create a demand for the position.

Many job openings arise from the need to replace workers who leave the occupation permanently because of the limited room for growth, in addition to the modest pay and benefits. Emergency medical service agencies are increasingly hiring full-time paid emergency medical technicians and paramedics because they are finding it difficult to recruit and retain unpaid volunteers due to the large amount of training and time commitment that the job entails.

Greater competition for employment in local government, such as in police, fire and independent third-service rescue squad departments should arise as these jobs usually have better benefits and salaries. The people who should enjoy the best job prospects are those who hold certifications or have advanced education because patients are demanding higher levels of care before arriving at the hospital.

Earnings and Salary for Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics

Salaries of emergency medical technicians and paramedics vary depending on the geographic location, as well as their experience and training. The median hourly wages for emergency medical technicians and paramedics is $14.42. The highest 10 percent earn more than $24.74 and the lowest 10 percent earn less than $9.31. The middle 50 percent earn between $11.37 and $18.87. The median hourly wages for those employed in top industries for emergency medical technicians and paramedics are $12.99 in ambulatory healthcare services and $15.45 in local government.

Twenty-seven percent of emergency medical technicians and paramedics are covered by a union contract or belong to a union.

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