People undergo EMT training for a number of reasons (for example, volunteering in small or rural communities), but often it’s to pursue a career as an emergency medical technician. Might working as an EMT be a good choice for you?
Are you emotionally stable, physically strong and flexible, and able to lift and carry heavy loads? Are you comfortable working a flexible schedule, dealing with both the medical and emotional crises at hand, and taking control in an often chaotic situation? If so, a career as an EMT is worth looking into.
What EMT training prepares you for
EMTs are often first on the spot when people’s lives depend on not just medical knowledge, but also quick reactions and calm, competent care. These situations include car accidents, severe injuries from slips or falls, unscheduled childbirth outside of a hospital, heart attacks, even gunshot wounds. EMTs and paramedics are there to stabilize and care for the patient while he or she is transported to a medical facility.
Usually dispatched by a 911 operator, EMTs and paramedics arrive on the scene and assess the nature of the patient's condition, while trying to determine whether he or she has any pre-existing medical conditions. Following protocols and guidelines learned in EMT training, they provide emergency care and transport the patient to a medical facility where a physician provides medical direction and oversight.
EMTs and paramedics generally work in teams of two: one EMT or paramedic drives while the other monitors the patient's vital signs and provides additional care as needed. Some paramedics work as part of a helicopter's flight crew to quickly transport critically ill or injured patients to hospital trauma centers.
EMT career paths
Most of the more than 210,000 career EMTs and paramedics work in metropolitan areas. They may be employed in a number of industries and medical settings. For example, 45 percent work for ambulance services, while 29 percent work in local government and another 20 percent work in hospitals.
In terms of advancement, some EMTs and paramedics become instructors, dispatchers, or physician assistants; others move into sales or marketing of emergency medical equipment, a career path that builds on their knowledge of both the patient experiencing a medical emergency and the solutions needed by EMTs in the field.
You may decide that your EMT training has opened up a broader opportunity in healthcare for you. In fact, a number of people become EMTs and paramedics to test their interest in healthcare before training as registered nurses, physicians or other healthcare workers.
EMT training levels and licensure
The specific responsibilities of EMTs and paramedics depend on their level of qualification and training. The National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) certifies emergency medical service providers at five levels: First Responder; EMT-Basic; EMT-Intermediate (which has two levels, 1985 and 1999) and Paramedic. Some states, however, have their own certification programs and use distinct names and titles. You’ll want to check with your state (or the state in which you’d like to work) to determine the specific qualifications needed as well as any recertification or continuing education requirements.
All states require EMTs and paramedics to be licensed, but the levels and titles vary from state to state, so again, you’ll want to check with your specific state or the state in which you’d like to work.
ACLS certification and EMT work
ACLS certification, with its focus on advanced cardiac life support in the event of a heart attack or other cardiopulmonary emergency, can provide important additional skills and knowledge to add to your EMT skill set.
As in any career situation, the broader your professional skills, the more job opportunities are available to you. ACLS training provides you with additional, specifically-targeted knowledge for dealing with medical emergencies related to the heart, an area of medical emergencies anticipated to increase with the aging population.
Health Education Solutions offers the ACLS course for certification online.
Is an EMT career for you?
EMT training can provide you with the skills you need to help save lives, but your attitude and aptitude are just as important as your skills and training. Can you remain calm in the midst of crises, both medical and emotional? Do you thrive on bringing control and compassion as well as medical expertise to situations whose circumstances are different every time? Do you relish the challenge of the unpredictable on a daily basis? If so, then a career as an EMT may be just the choice you’re looking for.
Health Education Solutions offers online courses for EMTs, including the American Heart Association's BLS Certification, Stroke Courses, ACLS certification and recertification, and PALS certification and recertification.