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Overview of an EMT – Paramedic

Higher Education Articles January 1, 2013

Students who are interested in a career as an emergency medical technician, this article is for them. Here, we will look at different requirements students need to fulfill in order to become an EMT – Paramedic.

Job Profile of an EMT- Paramedic

Among emergency medical technicians (EMTs), paramedics gain the highest respect. Ill or injured; people rely on paramedics for the provision of advanced life support while they are rushed to the hospital, either by helicopter or an ambulance. To ensure they are performing to expectation, paramedics need to be responsive to emergency dispatch. The ability to handle complex emergency medical care procedures including the application of intravenous medications among others sets paramedics apart from other EMTs.

At the entry level, these professionals develop their careers as EMTs at a basic or intermediate level. They undergo training before advancing in their career as paramedics.

Standard Prerequisites

Students aspiring to be paramedics need to undergo formal training along with an associate degree or certification. The field of specialization will be EMT-Paramedic or paramedic studies. Paramedics need to fulfill licensure requirements in every state. In most states, licenses are granted to prospective paramedics who hold certification issued by the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT); some others call for prospective paramedics to pass state-issued exams.

While not all employers look for previous experience in those they employ, there are others who do insist on experience ranging from one to three years. Excellent problem-solving and communication skills are expected from potential paramedics who must have the capacity to work well in teams during stressful emergency situations, apart from demonstrating a compassionate nature towards ill or injured patients. They need to be in excellent physical condition as the job requires physical strength (required for lifting patients into ambulances or for positioning them); candidates must possess a valid state driver’s license (sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; Job postings by employers (July 2012)).

Stage One: Earning an EMT-Basic Certificate

Enrollment to many paramedic training programs requires completion of EMT-Basic training, though EMT instruction forms part of the coursework of some programs. Standard requirements for enrollment include high school graduation and a minimum age of eighteen years old along with a valid CPR certification. Coursework includes basic skills needed for the provision of medical care prior to hospitalization, apart from teaching students about the need for responsiveness to cardiac emergencies, management of airways, controlling of bleeding and evaluation of patient’s conditions. Part of the training are imparted in a labor ward, the emergency room of a hospital or inside an ambulance, thereby giving the student valuable hands-on experience.

Stage Two: Passing the EMT Licensing Exams

Some paramedic training programs only allow enrollment by licensed EMTs. Licensure requires the candidate to hold NREMT certification (post-training), or to pass a state-issued exam. Passing the examination that tests psychomotor and cognitive skills will allow students to receive EMT-Basic credentials.

Stage Three: Gaining Work Experience

Potential students should consider acquiring work experience as EMTs before applying to a paramedic training program. Gaining Work experience as EMTs is useful with some schools requiring mandatory six months to a year of experience for enrollment, some look for previous experience working as a firefighter or lifeguard.

Stage Four: Completing Paramedic Training

Paramedic training programs usually take one to two years to complete then students are awarded either an associate degree or a certificate. Coursework includes stitching of wounds, starting IV’s and administering medication apart from advanced topics such as dealing with trauma, cardiac care, and obstetrical and pediatric emergencies. Field work and clinical practice are part of the curriculum in most courses.

Stage Five: Obtaining State Licensure

All states require licensure for paramedics. Akin to EMTs, paramedics will need to pass state-issued exams or earn NREMT certification. NREMT’s certification exam has a written as well as a practical area and covers topics such as cardiac management, patient assessment, and medication skills. Paramedics need to earn continuing education credits by attending refresher courses in order to renew the certification once every two to three years.

Additional suggestions

Great communication and listening skills are essential to the effective performance of a paramedic. Students can prepare for the examination and ensure success — access skill sheets and a listing of topics covered in the exam at NREMT’s website.

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