There is no doubt you have an idea of what a paramedic is and does. You may even have been unlucky enough to require the life-saving services of one at some point in your life. Paramedics are a vital part of the health system infrastructure, without whom the emergency response system, which is so important for taking patients away from dangerous situations and in the care of medical institutions, simply would not function. There’s no doubt that paramedics have a shade of the heroic about them.
For many people, this inspiring image of the vital role of paramedics is something which encourages them to decide to become one. Becoming a paramedic typically takes one to three years, depending on career goals and the precise path you wish to follow. You may also decide to become an emergency medical technician (EMT), a role which is also vital when emergency medical care needs to be administered and time is very much of the essence.
What Does a Paramedic Do?
The first step to becoming a paramedic is, obviously enough, finding out what it is they actually do. There’s no doubt you’ll have a good idea, but if you’re looking to become one, you’ll need to get a little more familiar than that.
All the duties of a paramedic can be grouped into their two most essentials functions:
- Administering emergency medical treatment in emergency medical situations
- Transporting patients to hospitals.
The first of these tasks involves making life-saving decisions in time-sensitive and high-stress situations. The role of a paramedic can be thought of as part of the whole emergency response infrastructure – not just the medical response. Paramedics will typically work closely with police and firefighters in order to offer a complete response to any given emergency. Their job can indeed involve the same levels of stress as you would expect from firefighting or policework, and if you cannot handle that, then becoming a paramedic is probably not right for you.
When it comes to transporting patients to hospitals, this does not just mean driving. As well as providing a medical response at the site of an emergency, a paramedic also has to stabilize a patient and keep them alive en route to the hospital. This is a job involving constant monitoring and medical response as and when it might be necessary.
What’s the Difference Between a Paramedic and an EMT?
Understanding the role of a paramedic also means being able to distinguish them from EMTs, whom they work alongside. An EMT is a less qualified position that exists to support the paramedics. In short, they will perform less advanced medical procedures and operate ambulance medical equipment. An EMT will, for example, stop external bleeding or apply a neck brace, but they will not administer medication, insert an IV, or resuscitate patients.
Becoming a Paramedic
The route to becoming a paramedic, then, typically includes the following:
- The completion of basic EMT training, which involves attaining a CPR certification and a post-emergency medical technology program through a community or technical college
- Passing a national or state exam to become certified for practice (as an EMT)
- Completing Advanced EMT Training, which includes up to two hundred additional hours of fieldwork
- Completing a two-year degree program, which takes a qualified EMT up to the level of a paramedic.
By making it this far, paramedics are then qualified to practice. The only thing left to do thereafter is to visit healthcare job boards like those offered by Health Jobs Nationwide and look for openings. As a qualified paramedic, your prospects at this point are very good, and you can begin to make a difference.