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What Does an Emergency Medical Technician Do?

Do you like working in fast-paced environments? Not knowing what will happen from one day to the next? What about leaving your job each day, knowing you have made a real difference to people?

Then life in the emergency medical services may be for you!

But when we think about someone becoming a health professional, we often have thoughts of someone studying for years before getting anywhere close to being on the front line.

But did you know that there is one profession where you could be helping to save lives within a year?

An emergency medical technician.

So let us break down all there is to know about this dynamic and exciting role in our healthcare service.

What Is Emergency Medical Technician?

An emergency medical technician (EMT) is a trained health professional whose main purpose is to be the first respondent to a medical emergency.

They may work in separate units or along with a paramedic. They are also common in fire and air rescue departments.

EMTs are not doctors, nurses, or paramedics, meaning that there is some restriction as to what they can do. For example, the only time an emergency medical technician is able to break the skin of a patient would be when attending to someone with a severe allergy with an epinephrine injection.

They are able to provide basic medical care and first aid.

Although this may sound like they cannot do much, the great work done by emergency medical technicians can be the difference between life and death. When working as single responders or in nonmedical services, such as the fire department, they cannot only assess but also advise paramedics as to the severity of the situation, speeding up the medical care a patient will receive.

They have a range of tasks to tend to, and the fast-paced nature of the job means that no two days are ever the same.

Typical tasks include responding to emergency calls, take thorough notes on the patient’s condition and what they think has happened, and isolate what the best form of treatment a patient will need is.

These first respondent tasks are the core of their profession, and what makes their abilities special. In fact, these skills are the same as those needed by a paramedic, which is why becoming an EMT is viewed as being the first vital step needed for anyone with aspirations of becoming one.

How to Become an Emergency Medical Technician

Becoming an emergency medical technician does not require a college education. Graduating from high school or having a GED certificate is sufficient to start the journey of becoming an EMT.

What is required however is the completion of CPR training and the resulting certification. This can be done either via the Red Cross of America or the American Heart Association. This consists of an exam and some training in person, something to keep in mind if you decide to do this step online.

The next step is to do enroll in an ETM course at an accredited institution. This can be at a community college or technical school but as can be imagined there are now online EMT courses available also.

The courses can be anything from 120 – 150 hours and take up to 6 months to complete.

In the course of the program, the focus is on honing those all-important assessment skills, covering breathing, cardiology, trauma, gynecology, and emergency service operations. These are some of the main components that are covered in the final EMT basic certification exam. It is a computer-adapted test that is made up of multiple-choice questions.

It is important to take the study side seriously, as the only route to becoming an EMT is to take the National Registry Emergency Medical Technicians exam.

You will need to register at least 4 weeks in advance to take the test.

If you wanted to you could study more and progress to becoming an advanced EMT or even a paramedic. An advanced EMT can also administer an intravenous drip, read a capnograph, and will widen their knowledge and application of certain medicines. A paramedic however can conduct advanced life support and will have extensive knowledge in medication and cardiology and much more.

A Day in the Life of an Emergency Medical Technician

So what is a normal day like for an emergency medical technician?

Well upon arriving at work, the most fundamental task will be to review and stock up on everything inside the ambulance unit. This also includes a more recent addition to any emergency services equipment, the addition of personal protective equipment due to COVID-19.

Once the inventory is fully checked then the whole vehicle will be given a once over to make sure that it has everything it needs before it ever sets off in the road. This doesn’t just mean the medical equipment. The oil, light, and siren are looked at to make sure that there are no unnecessary hiccups in what will are already high-stakes situations.

With all the basic checks done, there is nothing more to do than to wait for calls. The amount can vary, and depending on where you are there may be some days where nothing happens, although that is unlikely if you live in a big city.

But once a call does come in swift action is needed. Once at the scene you will get to work. If operating as a single unit or in a nonmedical department you will likely need to give a report to the attending paramedic unit. If not then you will transfer the patient to the hospital, if necessary.

When the call is over then it’s onto every EMT’s favorite part, the paperwork! You will need to complete a patient care report (PCR) documenting everything that happened on the call.

A typical shift can last anything from 9 – 24 hours.

A Noble Profession

A life in emergency medical services is probably one of the most rewarding professions that someone can embark on. If you are considering getting started in some way shape or form becoming an emergency medical technician is a great entry point, and could lead to a long and fulfilling career.

We hope our overview of what you can expect has been useful! For more insights into different paths of education, you can take be sure to check out the other posts on our site.

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