Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) and paramedics are a vital part of getting health care to people who need it. Paramedics are at the highest rung of EMT training, and capable of providing a wide number of medical interventions designed to stabilize patients while they are brought to a hospital. Paramedics work on ambulances, helicopters, and in emergency rooms to assist in providing care. Although becoming a paramedic requires extensive training, depending on which level you intend to certify to, the work is very rewarding.
Individuals interested in becoming a paramedic should be aware that because emergency services operate on 24 hour schedules, they may find themselves with irregular job schedules. The work is varied, but can also be very emotionally draining, especially in areas with high incidents of injury. Competition for positions as a paramedic varies, but tends to be the most intense in urban areas, which pay their paramedic staffs better.
To be a paramedic, you must be physically fit. Paramedics often extract patients from physically demanding situations, and must be able to lift and carry a substantial amount of weight. In addition to the weight of the patient, paramedics also carry heavy bags of gear to treat patients. If you are a paramedic on an ambulance, you will also have shifts driving the vehicle, which requires special training for safety.
Becoming a paramedic begins with the training. Standards for training vary from state to state, but generally begin with EMT-1, which is first responder training. EMT-1s can provide limited patient interventions, take vital signs, and offer basic life support including administration of oxygen and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). EMT-1s cannot administer injected medications. EMT-2s and EMT-3s can offer more life support services, as well as offering injected and oral medications. A paramedic, or EMT-4, has the highest level of training.
Paramedics are able to provide advanced life support, interpret diagnostic equipment, use medical devices which assist in breathing, and use stomach suction equipment. The range of drugs they can use under the direction of a physician is more broad. Becoming a paramedic reflects an advanced level of training and field work.
Training to be an EMT begins in the classroom, where courses range from a few weeks for EMT-1s to full two year programs for some paramedics. In the classroom, students learn about anatomy and physiology. They also learn about how to intervene in medical emergencies, what sort of drugs they can use to assist patients, and how to handle a wide variety of social situations which may accompany medical emergencies. After a set amount of classroom training, trainees are permitted to ride along in ambulances, where they observe and assist with patient care.
After training, an examination is administered. A successful pass results in certification as a paramedic. Paramedics can work in a wide variety of environments, or can go back to school for further training. Some paramedics decide to pursue careers as doctors, nurses, or hospital supervisors. The range of opportunities for certified paramedics is wide, and employment is available all over the United States. A career as a paramedic, as in many fields of health care, can be very rewarding.