Emergency medical service staff (EMS), a blanket term for a field that covers paramedics, emergency medical technicians (EMT), and first responders, are vital parts of an effective healthcare system. It is members of EMS staff who are responsible for providing care to patients prior to hospitalization. EMS team members are the first medics on the scene of an emergency and accident and the care they provide often makes the difference between life and death for injured and ill patients.
EMS has specific levels of certification, with paramedics requiring the most training and first responders requiring the least. Unlike other medical professions, beginning a successful career as an EMT of any level only requires a high school diploma, making it an ideal profession for individuals interested in employment in the healthcare industry without having to attend an expensive medical schools or complete lengthy programs.
Before beginning any type of educational program and training, it is vital to understand the basic duties of any position covered under emergency medical services. Any candidate for admission into should be both mentally and physically sound, willing to work long hours (EMS staff must be available 24 hours to respond to emergencies), and the ability to work efficiently in high-stress situations.
The duties of an EMS vary in scope and depend primarily on the level of training achieved by the candidate. In general, an EMS team member will be responsible for recognizing emergency circumstances, implementing procedures, managing crisis situations, making preliminary diagnoses, stabilizing patients, operating medical equipment, and transporting patients to the hospital or emergency center.
As with all healthcare jobs, working as an EMT requires you to understand the basic workings of physiology and physiology. The level of expertise you achieve in each skill will determine in what capacity you will be able to work within the EMS system.
Education and Certification
To begin a career in EMS, you will need to enroll in a training program that is geared specifically to students who want to work as paramedics or emergency medical technicians. These programs may result in certification or an Associates Degree in Applied Science. In order to begin training as a first responder, EMT, or paramedic you must have achieved a high school diploma or GED. Some programs will ask for a certain GPA, along with a background check for admission.
The training you receive will be reliant upon what level of proficiency you wish to achieve. Currently the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) recognizes 5 levels of expertise as certifiable skills. The emergencies and
- First Responder: Includes professionals such as fire fighters and police officers who can administer basic care until EMS arrives.
- EMT-Basic: Covers skills such as managing respiratory and cardiac trauma, controlling bleeding, assisting with birth, and administering oxygen.
- EMT-Intermediate : Covers 2 levels of expertise that increase the responsibilities of the EMT. EMTs who are certified Intermediate can use advanced techniques and medical instruments during emergencies.
- EMT-Paramedic: The most advanced level of EMS, paramedics may administer drugs, operate complex equipment, and perform endotracheal intubations along with the above listed responsibilities.
As you advance in your career as an EMT, you may choose to acquire more advanced levels of knowledge in order to increase your salary and employment opportunities.
Currently all 50 states require certification to work as an EMT or paramedic. Certification is based upon number of hours of coursework completed and skills mastered. To remain certified, an EMT must undergo re-examination every two years by NREMT.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 9% increase in demand for EMS and paramedics over the next 10 years. There are many employment options available for EMTs and paramedics with various levels of certification. You may choose to work at a hospital or fire station, but there are also positions available in the corporate and entertainment worlds. Many EMTs and paramedics work as contractors on film shoots and sporting events. The salary you receive will depend upon your place of employment and certification level. EMT-Paramedics can expect to earn somewhere between $19,710 and $51,370 per year. Supplementing your income with contracting work can add to this figure substantially.
Figures courtesy of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Employment & Wages database.