Paramedics attend to medical emergencies, and provide critical care and hospital transport to people in emergency situations. They are the first point of contact for patients, are responsible for assessing the situation on arrival, and providing immediate medication or treatment as required. This could involve performing CPR, attending to an injury, or even performing limited emergency surgical procedures, such as intubation. Paramedics may work in ambulances, or other emergency vehicles such as rapid-response cars, motorcycles or even helicopters.
Working as a paramedic is a varied, and often unpredictable job. Paramedics respond to a wide variety of emergency situations, and responsibilities may include the following:
Assessing emergency situations.|
Identifying the patient’s immediate needs.
Deciding on an appropriate course of action.
Administering life support, such as CPR and defibrillation
Performing surgical procedures if required, or opening an airway.
Administering medication, by injection if required.
Dressing wounds, and burns.
Completing accurate patient records.
Maintaining emergency medical apparatus.
Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT)
Typically, a paramedic works with rapid ambulance response units. In ambulance crews, the paramedic is usually the senior professional health officer
among a two-person crew, while the second person serves as a technical assistant. People's lives may depend on the quick reaction, and competent care, of trained emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics. Incidents as varied as automobile accidents, heart attacks
, slips and falls, childbirth, and gunshot wounds require critical intervention, and transport to a medical facility. In an emergency, paramedics respond to a 911 dispatch, often arriving at the scene prior to the police and fire fighters. Once they arrive, paramedics may utilize special equipment to immobilize
patients before placing them on stretchers, and securing them in the ambulance.
During the transport of a patient, one team member drives, while the other monitors the patient's vital signs, and gives additional care as needed to stabilize the patient.At the medical facility, EMTs and paramedics help transfer patients to the emergency department, report their observations and actions to emergency department staff, and may provide additional emergency treatment. After each run, EMTs and paramedics document the trip, replace used supplies and check equipment. If a transported patient has a contagious disease
, EMTs and paramedics decontaminate the interior of the ambulance and report cases to the proper authorities.
EMTs and paramedics work both indoors and out, in all types of weather. They are required to do considerable kneeling, bending, and heavy lifting. In general, there's a high risk for contracting illnesses or experiencing work-related injuries, such as noise-induced hearing loss from sirens, and lower back injuries from lifting patients. In addition, EMTs and paramedics may be exposed to communicable diseases, such as hepatitis-B and AIDS, as well as to violence from mentally unstable or combative patients. The work is not only physically strenuous but can be stressful, sometimes involving life-or-death situations and suffering patients. Nonetheless, work can be exciting and certainly challenging, with the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others daily. Many EMTs and paramedics are required to work more than 40 hours a week, and because emergency services function 24 hours a day, EMTs and paramedics may have highly irregular working hours.
Training is offered at three progressive levels, the EMT-Basic, EMT-Intermediate, and Paramedic. At the EMT-Basic level, coursework emphasizes emergency skills, such as managing respiratory, trauma, and cardiac emergencies, and patient assessment. Formal courses are often combined with time in an emergency room or ambulance. The program provides instruction and practice in dealing with bleeding, fractures, airway obstruction, cardiac arrest, and emergency childbirth. Students learn how to use and maintain common emergency equipment, such as backboards, suction devices, splints, oxygen delivery systems, and stretchers. Graduates of approved EMT-Basic training programs must pass a written and practical examination administered by the State licensing agency or the NREMT. At the EMT-Intermediate level, training requirements vary by State. The EMT-Intermediate typically requires 50 to 350 hours of training, based on scope of practice. The most advanced level of training is the paramedic, who receives training in anatomy and physiology, as well as practicing advanced medical skills. These programs may take up to one to two years. Such education prepares the graduate to take the NREMT examination to become certified as a Paramedic. Extensive related coursework and clinical and field experience is also required. Paramedics provide more extensive pre-hospital care than do EMTs. In addition to carrying out the procedures of the other levels, paramedics administer medications orally and intravenously, interpret electrocardiograms (EKGs), perform endotracheal intubations, and use monitors and other complex equipment.
Source: National Registry of EMTs
Paramedic and EMT Job Outlook
The job prospects for paramedics and emergency medical technicians are good, particularly in cities and within private ambulance services. EMTs and paramedics who have advanced education and certification enjoy the best job prospects. Growth in employment opportunities for paramedics is largely due to increased call volumes of medical emergencies. In addition, the time that EMTs and paramedics spend with each patient is increasing, as hospital emergency departments are experiencing overcrowding. As a result, when an ambulance arrives, it takes longer to transfer the patient from the care of paramedics to the staff of the emergency department. In addition, some emergency departments divert ambulances to other hospitals when they are too busy to take on new patients. Paramedics can become supervisors, operations managers, administrative directors, or executive directors of emergency services. Some EMTs and paramedics become instructors, dispatchers, or physician assistants. Others move into sales of emergency medical equipment. A number of people become paramedics to test their interest in healthcare, before considering nursing school, or going on to medical school.
National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians
132-A East Northside Drive
Clinton, MS 39056
Toll Free: 1-800-34-NAEMT