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Emergency Medical Technician/Paramedic Job Description, Career as an Emergency Medical Technician/Paramedic, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training: High school plus training

Salary: Median—$25,310 per year

Employment Outlook: Excellent

Definition and Nature of the Work

Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) offer immediate aid to victims of accidents or critical illnesses. They may provide their services at the scene of the crisis, en route to the hospital, and in the emergency room. Usually an EMT's first contact with a victim is at the scene of the crisis. EMTs work on-call and are dispatched to an emergency site when needed. They must be able to quickly yet accurately determine the nature and extent of the problem and decide how it should be treated. In many cases they must treat the victim instantly if his or her life is to be saved. After giving the appropriate emergency care at the site, EMTs usually transport victims to proper medical facilities. They report their observations and care given, and they often stay on hand to provide any additional assistance.

The duties and capabilities of an emergency medical technician depend on their training. All EMTs are qualified to give cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), control bleeding, and administer oxygen. They can also deliver babies, subdue people displaying violent behavior, treat allergic reactions, apply splints and antishock suits, and treat wounds.

The National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) registers emergency medical service (EMS) providers at four levels: First Responder, EMT-Basic, EMT-Intermediate, and EMT-Paramedic. The First Responder designation is not for EMTs but for police, firefighters, and other emergency workers. As mentioned previously, those with EMT-Basic training (or EMT-1) can assess a patient's condition and manage breathing, heart, and trauma emergencies. In addition to these skills, the EMT-Intermediate (EMT-2 and EMT-3) is trained to administer intravenous fluids and use defibrillators to shock a stopped heart. The EMT-Intermediate also knows advanced airway techniques to help people who are having trouble breathing. EMT-Paramedics (EMT-4) are trained to provide the most extensive prehospital care. In addition to the skills already listed, paramedics may administer drugs, interpret electrocardiograms (EKGs), place a tube into the windpipe to help breathing, and use monitors and other complex equipment. Emergency medical technicians work for fire and police departments, hospitals, and private and public ambulance services.

Emergency medical technicians must arrive quickly at the scene of a crisis, diagnose the problem, and decide how it should be treated. Some EMTs in major cities ride bicycles to avoid delays caused by traffic. (© Martha Tabor/Working Images Photographs. Reproduced by permission.)

Education and Training Requirements

A person needs a high school diploma to enter a formal EMT training program. Training programs prepare students for EMT registration with the NREMT, for state certification, or both. To maintain certification, EMTs and paramedics must work as an EMT or paramedic, meet a continuing education requirement, and re-register every two years.

Fire departments and colleges offer most of the EMT courses available. Certification involves both written and practical tests. Refresher courses for EMTs are available at all levels.

Getting the Job

Volunteer technicians are always needed, and this is an excellent way for interested individuals to find out if they are suited to the work. To volunteer, candidates must take the training courses and pass the tests. For jobs, individuals should check with their local police or fire department or apply directly to a local first aid squad. Prospective EMTs can also apply to hospitals and private ambulance services.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Competent technicians can advance fairly quickly to the paramedic level if they are willing to meet training requirements mandated by their states. The employment outlook is expected to grow much faster than the average through the year 2014, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as more highly trained, salaried workers replace volunteers. In addition, as the population ages, the need for emergency medical services should increase. Opportunities for paramedics will be best in communities that are just setting up advanced rescue teams. Although job stress and turnover will produce many openings, keen competition is expected for those jobs.

Working Conditions

The work is demanding and unpredictable, requiring physical stamina, manual dexterity, emotional stability, compassion, good judgment, and the ability to react quickly under stressful conditions. Some EMTs work on rotating shifts, working a twenty-four-hour shift followed by two days off. Others work a single shift each day, totaling anywhere from forty to more than fifty-five hours per week. Night and weekend work is often required, and many EMTs are on call for emergencies.

Earnings and Benefits

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median salary for EMTs was $25,310 per year in 2004. Those with more experience and training can earn up to $43,240 per year.

Where to Go for More Information

National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians
PO Box 1400
Clinton, MS 39060-1400
(800) 34-NAEMT

Benefits for EMTs employed by city or local governments include paid vacations and holidays, retirement plans, and health insurance. Benefits for EMTs working for private companies vary and may not include retirement plans.

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