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  What You Need to Know to Become an EMT  

If you're thinking of becoming an emergency medical technician, you might have questions about the job and the process to become one.

EMTs in trainingWhen investigating the EMT job description, it's important to take into account all of the duties of this important life-saving profession. If you're thinking of becoming an EMT, it's important to know the requirements of the job so you can assess whether you're suited to it. If you're already an EMT, you might want a refresher on the job description so you can see if you're performing all of your duties properly. You might also want to check to see if your employer is asking you to fulfill duties that are outside the realm of normal EMT responsibilities.

The EMT job description states that they're required to provide emergency medical support to people who are injured or critically ill and transport them to a medical facility, if necessary.

As a first responder in an ambulance service or fire department, EMTs are dispatched to the scene of an emergency. This can be anything from a car accident, a fire, a falling injury, a dog bite, a shooting, a stabbing, a birth or a person who's suddenly fallen ill.

Once at the scene of the emergency, EMTs assess the situation and determine if additional assistance is needed, and order it, if necessary.

What Are the Skills and Responsibilites of EMTs?

The ultimate task in the EMT job description is to assess the medical needs of the sick or injured and provide immediate care, with priority given to those who are the most seriously in need of help. Once this assessment takes place, they perform whatever medical assistance is needed as long as it's within the scope of their training. EMTs are trained to give Basic Life Support (BLS) treatments, so they are able to:

  • Perform CPR and use an AED
  • Bandage wounds
  • Stabilize head and neck injuries
  • Stabilize broken bones
  • Resuscitate drowning victims
  • Provide oxygen to patients
  • Perform emergency childbirth procedures
  • Assess health emergencies
  • Administer certain medications like naloxone, epinepherine and albuterol

In the majority of emergencies, BLS care is enough to manage patients until they arrive at the hospital.

What Type of Emergencies Do EMTs Respond To?

In EMS, the majority of calls will fall into either medical or trauma. Medical calls involve things like:

  • Heart attacks
  • Strokes
  • Complications from diabetes
  • Severe allergic reactions
  • Labor and delivery
  • Septic shock
  • Hypothermia

Trauma calls usually involve an accident or physical injury. EMTs will respond to car crashes, falls, bar fights, and sports injuries. Unfortunately, mass casualty incidents require EMS providers to train with police and other agencies to be prepared to triage and treat multiple critical patients in dangerous scenes.

EMTs also assist in childbirth and help people with mental disorders in need of medical assistance.

EMTs may also respond to calls that are stranger than fiction. When entering the scene of an emergency, EMS providers must be prepared to deal with whatever comes their way.

What Does an Average EMTs Day Look Like?

EMT shifts can run from 8 to 48 hours (with a couple of days off after), but their rotations are rarely the same week-to-week. The schedule can be refreshing for people who don't like working a standard 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. job.

While transporting a patient to the hospital, EMTs must communicate with medical staff about their patient's condition and what treatments they have provided. For example, it must be reported when an emergency EpiPen is given to a patient suffering a severe allergic reaction.

After responding to a call, EMTs fill out a report describing the incident. These records are stored in case a call must be investigated for medical or legal reasons.

In between responding to emergencies, EMTs are required to clean and disinfect their ambulance and replace any supplies they used.

Otherwise, the downtime in between calls and administrative duties can be filled with reading, Netflix, making meals, or sleeping.

How Long Does It Take to Get EMT Certified?

Many community colleges offer EMT courses that last about five months, the length of a semester. These classes are taught by former EMTs, paramedics and firefighters who will share their career experiences and knowledge with new students. Aspiring EMTs will also learn practical skills such as working with an oxygen tank and how to splint broken bones.

EMT certification could take as little as three weeks if you find a very intensive, abbreviated course. However, students without background knowledge in medicine or anatomy may struggle to learn all of the material in such a short amount of time.

Once you pass a practical skills exam and work about 48 hours at a hospital or fire department, you will be cleared to take the standardized National Registry Emergency Medical Technician (NREMT) test. The NREMT exam is computer-based, and you must schedule an appointment with a local testing center.

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