We are all familiar with ambulances. They can be seen racing down the highway towards a multi-car accident. On the evening news, ambulances can be seen at the scene of a shooting or fire. Even on Friday nights, ambulances can be seen at the local high school football game, available should a player get hurt. What may not be as familiar, however, are the highly skilled Emergency Medical Technicians inside these ambulances.
Who are EMT’s? Emergency Medical Technicians are healthcare workers that triage and provide medical care to those who are sick or injured, while transporting them to the hospital. An integral part of the emergency response teams that serve our community, Emergency Medical Technicians are available twenty-four hours a day. They are trained to respond to those who are critically ill as well as provide care for minor injuries such as sprains.
Where do EMT’s work? Emergency Medical Technicians are employed by a variety of companies and agencies. You may see Emergency Medical Technicians wearing the uniform of the local fire department or hospital. Some larger university campuses have trained emergency response teams within their own campus. EMT’s are also employed by commercial and private ambulance services.
What medical care are EMT’s able to provide?Emergency Medical Technicians begin to triage, or medically assess a patient the moment they arrive on scene. If a person has fallen in the grocery store, for instance, the EMT’s may determine the patient has a dislocated hip. Medical care is immediately provided; in this instance by immobilizing the patient on a gurney. Medical care continues while the patient is being transported to the local hospital. Once the ambulance has arrived in the Emergency Department, EMT provide a “report” to the Emergency Department staff, updating them on all medical treatment that has been done before arriving at the hospital. The Emergency Department then takes over care of the patient.
Emergency Medical Technicians are trained to handle many types of calls, from minor sprains to more serious situations like a heart attack or stroke. Along with medical care that is more familiar, EMT’s are trained to provide medical interventions such as:
Control bleeding – both external and internal
Splint bone fractures
Provide CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation)
Establish or Maintain an airway (intubation)
Who do EMT’s work for? EMT’s in larger metropolitan areas work for city and municipal emergency response services. The majority of EMT’s, around half of the workforce, are employed by private or commercial ambulance services while around thirty percent are employed by local government. Hospitals also employ Emergency Medical Technicians, around twenty percent of the workforce. EMT’s are also employed, and highly visible, in other work environments such as casinos, sporting arenas, large amusement parks and events.
Can anyone become an EMT? If you are interested in becoming an Emergency Medical Technician, begin by assessing your characteristics – your strengths and weaknesses. Ask yourself these questions:
Am I willing to work outdoors? Wherever someone may become injured or ill, that is the work environment of an EMT. They may be called out to transport a patient during a snowstorm, or may triage a patient in an office building.
Am I able to do heavy lifting and kneeling? While most EMT’s work in pairs, it can be physically strenuous. Dexterity allows the EMT to work well in less than perfect conditions. Transporting a patient requires bending, kneeling, as well as lifting.
Do I work well under stress? EMT’s work with patients who may be confused, mentally ill, or fatally injured. Both training and experience allows them to provide skilled medical care under stressful conditions, while remaining calm and focused.
Am I capable of performing multiple tasks? Because an EMT provides triage and medical care while transporting the patient , they must be able to perform multiple tasks efficiently. In addition, the patient’s medical status may change immediately while en-route, necessitating a shift in medical care.
Are there requirements before I start my EMT training? Before selecting your EMT training program, you must:
- Be at least eighteen
- Have your High School diploma or GED
- Have a valid driver’s license in your state
How do I become an EMT? There are many state-approved EMT training courses and programs. In addition, you may obtain your EMT education at a community college that offers EMT training. The National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) provides accredidation for schooling opportunities across the nation.
Once you have completed your EMT training, you must become licensed. This is required by all 50 States. Each state varies in the EMT titles and levels. Depending on the state you live in, you may chose either to take the State or NREMT examination.
Is an EMT the same as a Paramedic? No. There are differences in training and certification. The National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians certifies three levels of Emergency Medical Technicians. These are:
An EMT at this level is able to provide basic life support to patients. This includes: assessing the patient, managing the airway and providing oxygen. An EMT may provide medications such as oral glucose, aspirin, albuterol inhalers or nitro depending on the state, and ordering Physician. An EMT at this level may also start an IV with state certification.
More advanced than Basic, an EMT at this level is also able to provide IV therapy to a patient, as well as use airway devices. In some states, an EMT at this level may also use endotracheal intubation. Additional training / certification at this level allows the EMT to expand their skills, allowing them to administer meds as well as provide cardiac monitoring.
Also referred to as an EMT-P, Paramedics have the highest training (pre-hospital). They are able to provide highly advanced life support skills that include: surgical airways, endotracheal tubes, cardiac (heart) monitoring and needle chest decompressions. An EMT at this level is also able to administer narcotic medicals – by mouth, injection, or through an IV.
Each state may have both state and local modifications to the EMT protocol. For instance, in your state you may be to perform duties such as start an IV, while in another jurisdiction you may not. Most states require you to obtain both training and certification to go beyond the national curriculum standard.