Being an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) is an emotionally, mentally and physically demanding job. It requires the right skills and proper training. One has to be mentally prepared 24/7 to respond to any 911 emergency call which includes shooting, stabbing, accidents, assaults, etc., but on the other hand, there is a positive side to it as well. An EMT saves lives, and sometimes brings new lives into the world.
You also get perks and benefits like any other emergency personnel. So, what do EMTs do? This article will give you a gist about all you need to know related to the Emergency Medical Technicians, their job responsibilities, education, training, certification requirements, licensure, work schedule, and prospective career outlook.
Job Description of an EMT
The job description of an EMT depends upon their certification and experience levels. There are three certifications offered by The National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT), and each certification involves further training. The most common programs are EMT-Basic, EMT-Intermediate, and EMT-Paramedics.
EMTs are the first responders to medical emergencies. A medical emergency ranges from a car accident or heart attack to fire, childbirth, ankle sprain, gunshot or dog bite. They are responsible for rushing at the scene of an emergency and perform basic life-saving techniques to assist other emergency personnel like police and firefighters. An EMT basic job description includes:
1. Respond to the 911 Emergency Calls
These calls demand EMTs to be at varied locations including streets, office buildings, or even at the patient’s home. The calls are nothing less than a nightmare as one has to often serve people who are drunk, violent, or angry.
2. Reach the Emergency Site and Assess the Situation Carefully
After reaching on site, EMTs have to carefully evaluate the situation and call for any further assistance if required. They also have to assist police and firefighters along with coordinating with the hospital. Later they have to prepare a report on the severity of the situation and each patient they came across.
3. Transport the Patient to the Nearest Medical Facility
EMTs are responsible for transporting patients to the hospital. Sometimes, the task also involves driving the ambulance, using backboards and straps to secure the patient while carrying them to the emergency room.
4. Perform Basic Medical Procedures
EMTs also perform necessary life-sustaining medical treatments that may include bandaging wounds, CPR and other related tasks while en-route to the hospital.
Job Duties of an EMT by Level of Certification
Beyond general EMT duties, there are three certification levels for Emergency Medical Technician: EMT-Basic, EMT-Intermediate, and EMT-Paramedic, and each level has its different job responsibilities and training requirements.
1. EMT-Basic (EMT-B)
At the start of your career, EMT-B is an entry-level position under the EMT designation. As the name implies, the job duties of an EMT-Basic comprises of the fewest job responsibilities as compared to EMT-I and EMT-Paramedics. They typically operate under the supervision of Paramedics. They are responsible to assess the patient’s condition and perform necessary life support before transporting them to the hospital for further treatment. Few common medical procedures one can perform with the Basic EMT certification involves:
- Controlling hemorrhage
- Performing CPR
- Bandaging wounds
- Administering oxygen
- Assist in emergency childbirth
- Assist patients with prescribed medications
2. EMT- Intermediate (EMT-I)
The EMT-Intermediate is the next level in the EMT Certification. In most states, candidates must complete the EMT-B level to qualify for an EMT-I level. EMT-I performs more advanced duties than the EMT-B. They are responsible for providing both primary and limited medical treatment, and transport patients to the medical facility. The job duties performed by the EMT-I differ by the state. In general, the EMT-Intermediate certificate holders are trained to perform the following duties:
- Basic Airway Management
- Cardiac Monitoring
- Administering IV treatment
- Intubate Patients
- Drug Administration
- Administration of several other medications
An EMT-Paramedic holds a higher level of responsibility than the EMT-B and EMT-I. A paramedic coordinates and works with other emergency personnel like police, helicopter flight crews or fire departments. One paramedic may drive the emergency vehicle, while the other may provide immediate medical attention to the victims. An EMT-Paramedic works round the clock and sometimes also have to work overtime when responding to emergencies. Besides performing the regular EMT responsibilities, the EMT-Paramedic performs other additional duties, which involve the following:
- Administer Oral and Intravenous medications
- Evaluating medical records
- Provide Blood Transfusions
- Operate heart monitors, Defibrillators, and other complex equipment
- Performing Nasogastric intubation
- Reading lab results, EKG’s, and X-rays
Education and Training Requirements of EMTs
EMTs are required to go through a rigorous training program before they get qualified enough to provide and assist with the medical treatments offered to the victims. The training is offered at various community colleges, vocational schools or sometimes at specialized EMT training facilities. The basic education requirement to qualify for an EMT is a High School Diploma or equivalent and formal three level emergency certification training: Basic, Intermediate, and Paramedic.
The first EMT-Basic train students with basic life-sustaining skills. According to the National EMT standard, the candidate is required to attend about 100 hours of training for EMT-B. Finally, the candidate has to pass both the written and practical exams to pursue the next level training for EMT-Intermediate. The EMT-I training program is about 1,000 hours of classroom study and clinical practices. The students are trained to perform more complicated medical procedures and advanced duties.
The highest level of training is the Paramedic EMT training. Many community colleges offer a two-year associate’s degree program in EMT-Paramedic where the students are taught subjects like anatomy, physiology, cardiology procedures and complex medical methods. To become a qualified Paramedic, students must clear the first two levels, or sometimes, working experience of 6 months is also required.
It is important to remember that each education and training requirement differs from state to state. So, before applying for an EMT course, double check with your school/college to find out what is required from you. The minimum age criteria is 18 years or above, and these certifications last for a maximum of two to three years. One can apply for the recertification of the training offered by the NREMT to stay updated with current medical knowledge, maintain professional development and ensure continual competence.
EMT Certification and Licensure
To qualify for the role of an EMT, the aspiring candidateS needs to be licensed in every state of the United States. Once you complete all the required levels of training, you can apply for the state’s licensing examination.
According to the BLS, most states utilize the licensing exam offered by the NREMT. In order to retain one’s license, EMTs must recertify the same within two years. In addition to this, EMTs should also meet the minimum age criteria of 18 years in every state. Most of the states perform criminal and background checks on EMT personnel as well. If found guilty with any inappropriate or unethical behavior; the state may also deny or suspend the license.
Work Environment and Daily Schedule
EMTs work at a rapid pace and are readily available for the tasks. They work both outdoors and indoors, in every kind of climatic condition. There work environment consists of hot and cold temperatures, extremely bright or inadequate lighting exposed to infections and disease, distracting noise levels, etc. Their work can be sometimes life-threatening, yet their usual days combine of both transporting mobile patients and providing them with the required medical assistance.
EMTs work both as a volunteer and on a full time basis. Their daily schedule varies with service, location, and industries they are employed in. Some may work in 12, or even 24-hour shifts. In emergencies, they are expected to work overtime and on weekends as well. EMTs with the job responsibility of transporting patients may often do back to back runs all day. EMT daily activities include:
- Reaching the scene
- Assessing the situation
- Depending on each patient’s condition, providing medical treatment ranging from administering medication, performing CPR or stop bleeding to delivering a baby.
- Once the patient is stabilized, transporting them to the nearest medical facility. The EMT then submits the report to the Doctor sharing the initial condition of the patient for additional treatment.
- Once all of this is done, the EMT restocks everything, clean the ambulance and return to the standby position, waiting for the next emergency call.
EMTs working voluntarily have a more flexible work schedule than EMT working on a full-time job. For example, they may only work for a few days in a week. On the brighter side, working as an EMT is extremely rewarding as well. You are in a position to create a positive impact on society and serve those who are in need.
According to the BLS, the EMT and Paramedic employment opportunities are reported to increase by 15% from 2016 to 2026 at a much faster pace than average of all other occupations. As of 2017, the median salary for EMTs and Paramedics was $33,380 per annum and $16.05 per hour. As per the data, EMTs held about 248,000 jobs in 2016.
As of May 2017, the average annual median salary for EMTs and Paramedics in the top three industries they were employed in is mentioned below. The lowest 10% earned less than $21,880, and the highest 10% made more than $56,990:
|Top Industries||Median Annual Wages||EMT Employment|
|Hospitals (state, local, and private)||$35,990||18%|
|Local Government (excluding education and hospitals)||$35,620||28%|
Information Source: The BLS
Let us further look at the table below to understand the career outlook of an EMT and Paramedic in a better way:
|Occupational Title||Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics|
|Projected Employment, 2026||285,400|
|Percent Change, 2016-26||15|
|Numeric Change, 2016-26||37,400|
From the table mentioned above, it is clear that the demand for EMTs is expected to rise particularly in private sectors and metropolitan cities. With the rise in population and hospitals being more specialized and advanced, the need for EMTs and Paramedics is likely to get increased.
The prospects of candidates with higher education and certifications enjoy higher pay and benefits. The job competition will be seen in areas like local government, ambulatory healthcare services, hospitals, and manufacturing facilities. The voluntary need of EMTs and paramedics will also increase in rural and smaller metropolitan areas.
In a nutshell, if you are looking for a good career prospect in EMT, you may look to apply for a few of the following job titles:
- Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)
- Emergency Medical Technician-Basic (EMT-B)
- Emergency Medical Technician-Intermediate (EMT-I)
- Emergency Medical Technician-Paramedic (EMT-Paramedic)
- Emergency Medical Dispatcher (EMT/Dispatcher)
- Emergency Medical Technician/Driver
- First Responder
- Flight Paramedic