An emergency medical technician career is not for everyone. It is one of the most stressful and difficult jobs anyone can do on a regular basis. However, it is also one of the most rewarding and fulfilling medical careers a person can choose, as an emergency medical technician (EMT) often is the difference between life and death. Across America, EMTs save thousands of lives a year, and in thousands of other cases, they prevent serious conditions from becoming even worse. As the first responders in most cases, they are the foot soldiers of emergency medicine. The job can be heartbreaking at times, but at other times, as many EMTs will affirm, it can be the greatest medical career in the world.
Emergency medical technicians respond to medical emergencies, usually receiving cases from a 911 operator. Cases can include car accidents, burns, shootings, broken bones from falls or other accidents, heart attacks, strokes, and a wide variety of other conditions. Once on the scene, EMTs will make a judgment as to the nature and severity of the patient’s condition, and will seek to ascertain any pertinent medical information, such as current medication use, allergies to any drugs, past medical history, etc. Typically, they will do this while also preparing the victim for transport to the nearest emergency room. Using back boards to stabilize the victim, they will then place the patient on a stretcher, load him or her into the ambulance, and proceed to the hospital. One EMT will drive, while one or more will stay with the victim to comfort them and monitor their condition. Once at the hospital ER, they will move the patient inside and relay all the information they’ve gathered to the attending medical personnel. Afterwards, they will write up a report about the incident and file it for official record-keeping purposes.
The job is hectic and can be extremely stressful. Many patients, along with their friends or family members, will be gripped with panic bordering on hysteria. The ability to remain calm and focused under difficult conditions is a must for anyone seeking an emergency medical technician career. One of the most difficult aspects of the job is dealing with gruesome scenes, especially in the case of auto accidents and shootings. Many people simply aren’t equipped to deal with things that come up regularly in an emergency medical technician career. Even for those who have the constitution to deal with such scenes, it’s never easy. A thick skin and the ability to compartmentalize the horrific scenes one encounters are also necessities for anyone seeking to become an EMT. The job is also demanding physically, as EMTs work in all kinds of weather and spend much of their time bending over and lifting people in and out of ambulances.
To become an EMT, a person must first take EMT training. In many cases, this training is offered at a local community college and typically takes several weeks to complete. Many private trade schools offer EMT training, but these should be thoroughly investigated before enrolling, as some of these schools have been associated with fraud. No matter where people choose to get their EMT training, after completion of the course it will be necessary to take and pass the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) exam for the Basic level. There are higher levels of certification available, but the Basic classification is the entry level at which most people will begin their EMT career. Moving to higher levels will require more training and passing the appropriate NREMT exam.
Job growth for people in an emergency medical technician career is projected to steadily increase over the coming years, at about the same pace as job growth in most fields. As in most careers, there are opportunities for advancement, and many EMTs go on to become supervisors, managers, dispatchers, etc. Pay varies, and one of the biggest factors is location, with bigger metropolitan areas usually paying more than small towns and rural areas. The median hourly wage for EMTs is over $14 an hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, with most EMTs earning somewhere between $11 and $18 an hour. All of the factors discussed above should be weighed when deciding if an emergency medical technician career is for you.