Health Care Careers - Emergency medical technician (emt)

When a medical emergency occurs, such as a car accident or a heart attack, emergency medical technicians (EMTs) are most often the first to arrive at the scene. Working in teams of two, EMTs drive ambulances with special

equipment that allows them to examine patients and treat injuries and illness. After EMTs determine the seriousness of an emergency, they give people immediate medical care. They must follow strict guidelines when treating their patients. Once treatment has been given, one EMT continues to monitor and treat the patient in the ambulance while the other EMT drives to the nearest hospital.

There are three skill levels for an EMT: EMT-Basic; EMT-Intermediate; and EMT-Paramedic. The differences among them revolve around what type of emergency care they are trained for and allowed to give. All EMTs can do the following:

  • help with childbirth
  • control bleeding and bandage wounds
  • restore breathing and administer oxygen
  • treat victims for shock and heart attack
  • treat poison and burn victims
  • use an automated defibrillator (equipment that uses an electric shock to restore a regular heartbeat)

EMT-Intermediates have more training than an EMT-Basic so they can use more sophisticated equipment and procedures to treat medical emergencies. EMT-Paramedics have the most training and are able to give a victim the most extensive care. This includes administering drugs, reading electrocardiograms (EKGs, or machines that monitor heart problems), and performing endotracheal intubations (insertion of a breathing tube down the throat).

When EMTs arrive at a hospital, they give the emergency room doctors information regarding the patient, including the patient's medical status and any procedures that have been performed on the patient. Once the patient is at the hospital, the EMTs' job is done, until they are called to help in another emergency.

EMTs' work can be very challenging because the workday usually involves life-and-death situations. Along with the challenges and the excitement, however, comes stress and sometimes danger. EMTs must remain calm in emergency situations, as well as calm others at the scene. If EMTs are called to handle a victim who's had a drug overdose or a patient suffering from a mental illness, the EMTs may have to deal with angry and/or violent reactions from their patients.

Training to Be an EMT

In order to become an EMT, one must be at least eighteen years old and have a high school diploma and a valid driver's license. The training an EMT must undergo is different for each skill level. Moving from one level to the next involves a certain amount of classroom work and field work, as well as written and practical examinations. In order to become registered, or certified, one must pass an examination that is given by the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians. Many communities colleges offer courses in EMT Training.

EMT-Basic requires 110 to 120 hours of work in the classroom as well as ten hours interning in the emergency room of a hospital. Upon completion of the EMT training program, graduates must pass the National Registry's written and practical exam.

Moving from EMT-Basic to EMT-Intermediate requires more classroom work, usually between 35 and 55 hours. It also requires another examination, as well as a certain amount of practical experience in the field.

Most EMT-Intermediates go on to become EMT-Paramedics. This requires still more education and training. Training can last from 750 to 2,000 hours. Once training is completed, a person must take yet another written and practical exam, as well as gain more experience in the field.

All EMTs must reregister every two years to continue working in the field. To do so they must continue to take classes and learn about advances in the equipment they use and the medicines they give their patients.

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