Emergency Medical Technician
So you want to be one?

What does it take to become an emergency medical technician? Some would say a dedication to serve your fellow man, others would say it means you should have your head examined. I have been an EMT for more than 25 years. I can not actually remember all the reasons I wanted to be in the service but it was to have an exciting life and to help people.

It can be an interesting exercise to examine where we have come from. In 1966 the National Academy of Sciences published the EMS White paper which outlines what EMS was like in the beginning our our modern age of EMS.

Many emergency medical technicians started as volunteers. They simply walked in off the street and signed up. Back in the early days most of the training was done in the squad house. Now much of the training is done in formal institutions.

So, what do you need to know to become an EMT? The first is the job description for emergency medical technicians. The United States Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (the folks who set the national EMT training criteria) define an EMT as one who...

Quote:Responds to emergency calls to provide efficient and immediate care to the critically ill and injured, and transports the patient to a medical facility.

After receiving the call from the dispatcher, drives the ambulance to address or location given, using the most expeditious route, depending on traffic and weather conditions. Observes traffic ordinances and regulations concerning emergency vehicle operation.

Upon arrival at the scene of crash or illness, parks the ambulance in a safe location to avoid additional injury. Prior to initiating patient care, the EMT‑Basic will also "size-up" the scene to determine that the scene is safe, the mechanism of injury or nature of illness, total number of patients and to request additional help if necessary. In the absence of law enforcement, creates a safe traffic environment, such as the placement of road flares, removal of debris, and re-direction of traffic for the protection of the injured and those assisting in the care of injured patients.

Determines the nature and extent of illness or injury and establishes priority for required emergency care. Based on assessment findings, renders emergency medical care to adult, infant and child, medical and trauma patients. Duties include but are not limited to, opening and maintaining an airway, ventilating patients, and cardiopulmonary resuscita­tion, including use of automated external defibrillators. Provide prehospital emergency medical care of simple and multiple system trauma such as controlling hemorrhage, treatment of shock (hypoperfusion), bandaging wounds, and immobiliza­tion of painful, swollen, deformed extremities. Medical patients include: Assisting in childbirth, management of respiratory, cardiac, diabetic, allergic, behavioral, and environmental emergencies, and suspected poisonings. Searches for medical identification emblem as a clue in providing emergency care. Additional care is provided based upon assessment of the patient and obtaining historical information. These interventions include assisting patients with prescribed medications, including sublingual nitroglycerin, epinephrine auto-injectors and hand-held aerosol inhalers. The EMT‑Basic will also be responsible for administration of oxygen, oral glucose and activated charcoal.

Reassures patients and bystanders by working in a confident, efficient manner. Avoids mishandling and undue haste while working expeditiously to accomplish the task.

Complies with regulations on the handling of the deceased, notifies authorities, and arranges for protection of property and evidence at scene.

Lifts stretcher, placing in ambulance and seeing that the patient and stretcher are secured, continues emergency medical care.

From the knowledge of the condition of the patient and the extent of injuries and the relative locations and staffing of emergency hospital facilities, determines the most appropriate facility to which the patient will be transported, unless otherwise directed by medical direction. Reports directly to the emergency department or communications center the nature and extent of injuries, the number being transport­ed, and the destination to assure prompt medical care on arrival. Identifies assessment findings which may require communications with medical direction for advice and for notification that special professional services and assistance be immediately available upon arrival at the medical facility.

Reports verbally and in writing their observation and emergency medical care of the patient at the emergency scene and in transit to the receiving facility staff for purposes of records and diagnostics. Upon request, provides assistance to the receiving facility staff.

After each call, restocks and replaces used linens, blankets and other supplies, cleans all equipment following appropriate disinfecting procedures, makes careful check of all equipment so that the ambulance is ready for the next run. Maintains ambulance in efficient operating condition. Ensures that the ambulance is clean and washed and kept in a neat orderly condition. In accordance with local, state or federal regulations, decontaminates the interior of the vehicle after transport of patient with contagious infection or hazardous materials exposure.

Determines that vehicle is in proper mechanical condition by checking items required by service management. Maintains familiarity with specialized equipment used by the service.

Attends continuing education and refresher training programs as required by employers, medical direction, licensing or certifying agencies.

Meets qualifications within the functional job analysis.Unquote


So what does this all mean? The practical meaning of being an Emergency Medical Technician is that you go out and help people. When a new recruit is being interviewed I ask the following questions:

Do you like to help people in need?
Do you care about low, or no pay?
Do you like to work long hours?
Do you like to carry heavy loads?
Do you get queasy at the sight of blood?
Do you want to work hard to become an EMT?

That’s about the crux of being an EMT basic. We all start there. Of course there is much more to being an Emergency Medical Technician. First let’s start with training.

The national curriculum requires about 110 hours of class time and 10 hours of field practice. The National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration regulates the content the curriculum.

EMT Training at the basic level is broken down into seven modules. Each module is designed to cover a specific area of training. The seven modules for the emergency medical technician basic program are:

1-Prepatory
2-Airway
3-Patient Assessment
4-Medical Emergencies
5-Trauma Emergencies
6-Pediatric and geriatric emergencies
7-Operations
Here is a summary of the modules for the EMT basic program.

One of the biggest problems in becoming an emergency medical technician is passing the written test. Many programs have a written exam after each module. Many can pass the practical skills testing but get completely frustrated when it comes time to take the written test. There are many ways of studying for the test but the best way I found is to take practice tests. Preparing for the written test starts on the first day of class.

Part of preparing to take the written test means taking practice tests. You should take both module tests and full written tests. You should limit yourself to the appropriate amount of time to take the test to simulate the pressure you will be under while taking the test. Getting ready to take the test requires some preparation before hand.

After you pass your test you will need more resources to be a good emergency medical technician. Many of your fellow workers will, no doubt, give you some excellent advice. Some will give you horrible advice. How do you know the difference? You can't, only experience will guide you.

Just remember why you wanted to become an EMT and most of the advice you receive will sort itself out in time.


Ok, once you have become an emergency medical technician, what can you do with it? Perhaps you became a nationally registered EMT? Where can you practice. Let's say you became an EMT in Virginia and wanted to move to New York because of family considerations. Can you just pick up an practice there or do you need to take a test or need additional training. The concept of reciprocity is what we are talking about here.

Finding out that your dream state accepts your current certification as an emergency medical technician is great news (and there are a few states that operate that way) but knowing that you may need a sponsor or need additional training is very important. You may have to take a salary cut before you have enough certifications to practice again. Knowing the average salary in your desired state is also an important piece of information.

If you plan on moving to a state where you need to practice at a lower level of certification before you can get your full certification, then you need to know how much you can earn. You may need to save a nest egg before you go or perhaps work several jobs after you get there.


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