EMT – Emergency Medical Technicians

Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) are often among the first professionals to arrive on the scene of an accident or other emergency. They assess the immediate physical condition of the people involved, which includes noting the medical history of each person. EMTs provide emergency medical care and transport patients to the appropriate medical facility.

EMTs follow specific protocol and guidelines when treating patients and typically work with firefighters and police officers during a crisis situation. With major emergencies, an EMT may work under the authority of a medical doctor who directs and advises specific treatment action.

Education and licensing varies depending on the level of qualification and training achieved. Each of these progressive levels is available at many different colleges:

  • EMT Basic focuses on respiratory, cardiac and trauma emergencies and assessment
  • EMT Intermediate includes advanced skills such as using respiratory devices, intravenous fluids and medications
  • Paramedic includes studies in anatomy and physiology along with advanced medical training. In some states, an associate degree is required.

All EMT levels are required to spend from 30-350 hours of hands-on training with experienced professionals as part of their qualifications. Every state requires that an EMT candidate pass a licensing exam. Some states also include a criminal background check.

EMT Job Description

Emergency medical technician job descriptions differ based on professional level. An EMT-Basic primarily arrives on the emergency scene first, assesses the patient’s condition, performs essential respiratory, trauma and cardiac services and continues to administer care during transport to a medical facility. An EMT-Intermediate’s medical services depend on the specific state laws, but always includes treatment that is more extensive and advanced than the EMT-Basic. Paramedics offer many more services including evaluating EKGs, performing intubations, setting up intravenous medications and using more sophisticated equipment.

All EMTs must be able to communicate effectively under tremendous pressure, both on the scene of the emergency and with the medical professionals at the hospital. They should be in sound physical condition because they never know what type of situation or patient they’ll encounter. EMTs perform a significant amount of bending, kneeling, stretching and lifting. They often work long hours, usually more than 40 hours per week for a full time job. They have irregular hours during both day and night. Emotionally, EMTs must be able to handle difficult and challenging emergency medical situations without hesitation.

An emergency medical technician may perform these tasks in a variety of emergency settings, including:

  • Quickly assess medical emergency needs
  • Perform emergency medical services treating respiratory, cardiac and trauma related injuries
  • Use specialized and mobile equipment, such as a backboard to protect the patient during transport
  • Drive an ambulance rapidly and safely to medical facilities
  • Attend to patients during transport in an ambulance or helicopter
  • Communicate effectively with other health professionals
  • Complete paperwork to document situations and services rendered
  • Stock medical supplies and decontaminate the interior of the ambulance

Almost half of EMTs are employed by ambulance companies. The remainder work for hospitals and local government agencies. Paid EMTs are most commonly hired in cities or suburban areas. Small towns and rural communities may have volunteer EMTs who double as firefighters.

EMT Salary

The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes the profession of EMT is expected to grow by 9% over the next decade. Employment opportunities are favorable especially in metropolitan areas. With the aging citizens of the baby boomer generation, a greater need for emergency services is anticipated. The market is expected to remain competitive with a demand for professionals with higher levels of qualification and training.

As of May 2009, the annual wages for emergency medical technicians ranged from around $19,000 to over $51,000. Over a quarter of EMTs belong to a union or operate under a union contract.

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