Emergency Medical Technicians, or EMTs, and Paramedics are sometimes the difference between life and death for someone who is in dire straits medically, whether it be a result of a car accident, heart attack, allergic reaction or other accidental occurrence. This profession is a job where every day contains surprises but the pay comes in more than dollar bills.
Those interested in a career as an EMT should ideally be physically fit, capable of heavy lifting and be emotionally stable, agile and coordinated. Good eyesight and a clean criminal record are also beneficial.
Projections for the future of the field are that the number of EMTs will increase by 9% between 2008 and 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This increase is the typical average of all occupations. A significant factor in the increase is the increase in call volume due to the baby boomer generation getting older. Also emergency rooms are overcrowded, which means an EMT generally spends a significantly longer amount of time with each patient.
Salaries depend on what sector the EMT or paramedic are employed in – the public or private sector. An EMT in the public sector can expect at most an hourly wage of $17.68 and a yearly income of 436,780, according to statistics from 2009.*
However, an EMT in the private sector can make an hourly wage of as high as $26.63 or a yearly income of $55,380 if working in conjunction with a private company, i.e. mining.*
EMT supervisors can receive salaries as low as $14.64 per hour and as high as $23.12 per hour, with yearly incomes in the range of $41,379 to $60,287.*
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the middle 50% of individuals in the field earned a median hourly wage between $11.13 and $18.28, the lowest 10% earned less than $9.08 and the highest 10% earned more than $23.77.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Job Description and Outlook
EMTs and Paramedics do not have a typical 40-hour work week. In fact, EMTs are sometimes expected to work more than a typical 40 hours each week, and keep very irregular work hours due to the fact that emergency care is needed at any point in a 24-hour day, rather than between so-called ‘regular business hours.’ EMTs are required to work wherever they are called to, outside in good or bad weather or inside any residence or business, dealing with a variety of simple issues all the way to life-threatening situations. Some situations are not only life-threatening for the patient but also for the EMT whose job it is to save them. At an accident scene, EMTs work with police and firefighters. They are sent to each crisis by a dispatcher and remain in constant contact with the dispatcher and with the hospital they are transporting a patient to, when the situation requires transport.
Once at the hospital, the EMTs work with the hospital staff to transfer the patient to an emergency room or surgical suite as necessary and share any pertinent information for the patient’s case with the individuals who will be taking over his or her care.
EMTs who work in private sectors also may be required to assist with the transport of patients between medical facilities or to long-term care facilities from a hospital.
Training and Education Requirements
In all states, a high school diploma is the basic requirement to enter the EMT or Paramedic career field. The most basic level of certification, the EMT-B, are qualified to administer medications that any patient has previously been prescribed and also to perform non-invasive procedures.
The EMT I/85 is qualified to start an intravenous line and perform other basic procedures. Both this level and the EMT I/99 require between 30 and 350 hours of training, depending on the state requirements.
The EMT I/99 can perform invasive procedures and also administer medications that can assist with irregular heart rhythms, etc..
The EMT-P, or Paramedic, can intubate patients, administer oral and intravenous medications and even determine the settings when mechanical ventilation is necessary. This level of training includes anatomy and physiology education as well as the advanced medical skills.
In order to advance in the field, the level of Paramedic certification is required. Paramedics can advance to supervisory positions, as well as becoming instructors, dispatchers or physicians assistants.
Certifications depend on the level of training reached and the requirements of the state that employs the EMT. Some states have their own certification requirements. Most states require a certification by the NREMT (see below). A renewal of certification, once acquired, is necessary generally every two to three years.
The National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians and the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians each include chapters at state level. The NREMT also certifies EMTs at four levels for all 50 states and also the District of Columbia.
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