Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) are the first line of emergency medical response and you have almost certainly encountered someone in the job at some point in your life. Now, you may be wondering whether you could do that job and whether you would enjoy it? Well, we’ve got some info that might help you make the right decision for you.
People will become EMTs for a variety of different reasons. If you enjoy helping people medically in dynamic situations, mental and physical challenges, learning about medicine, anatomy and physiology, or using your skills to get your patients through difficult situations, being an EMT may be the right job for you.
It may not be for everyone, but being a EMT or Paramedic can be a rewarding profession. To help you decide if it is the right career for you, in this article we will give you some important things to consider. Here’s what you need to know about what an EMT’s life is really like.
Table of Contents
What Is Being An EMT Like?
An EMT, Emergency Medical Technician, is someone who works on an emergency response vehicle, usually but not always an ambulance, to respond to emergency medical calls. They may work alongside other EMTs, Paramedics, or firefighters.
They are the front line of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) in the field.
The calls that they deal with often involve life-threatening problems and may range from anything from a heart attack to someone being shot. However, many more of their calls will involve less severe problems, such as someone who sprained an ankle in a park, for example, will need emergency help but they are unlikely to die from their injuries.
Also read: EMS vs EMT vs EMR: What’s The Difference?
1. Working With Patients
An EMT works with the patients wherever they may be, that might be on the street, in someone’s home or in their office. Their first priority is always to deal with any life threatening condition that the patient faces and then to attend to moving the patient to a primary care facility (such as a hospital or clinic) where they may get full treatment.
They will discover what’s wrong by interacting with the patient and conducting basic physical examinations.
2. Different Areas, Different Focuses
In rural areas, an EMT is a vital link in the chain when a population has been spread over a large area but an emergency may require someone getting to hospital on an urgent basis.
In cities and towns, EMTs tend to be part of a larger emergency service response that can involve firefighters, police, paramedics, etc.
EMTs will also work with other health and emergency professionals. Many enjoy working alongside firefighters who will often have EMT qualifications of their own and who might be assisting to extract patients from vehicles in a major accident, for example.
They will also interact with nursing staff and doctors at hospitals to offer background information on a patient and to relay their own findings from the scene.
3. Rewarding, Fulfilling Careers
Most EMTs consider their work to be extremely rewarding and say that the interactions between themselves, their patients and their families are incredibly fulfilling. They also love the fact that they get to have a positive impact on the communities that they serve.
4. You Need A License
Finally, it’s worth noting that EMTs are skilled professionals. You can’t just wander into a hospital and decide to be an EMT and then jump on an ambulance to go and treat your first patient. Something that we should all be thankful for.
Every EMT must obtain basic competence in CPR, become qualified to EMT-basic level at a minimum (this takes 150-180 hours of training) and pass a certification exam (the NREMT – from the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians), a background check and in some cases, also be certified by their state as fit to practice.
Can They Work For Fire Departments?
Yes, as long as an EMT meets the other requirements laid down by the fire department, EMTs make very welcome recruits at fire departments.
In fact, an EMT-basic qualification is fast becoming a mandatory minimum standard for many fire department’s hiring practices.
In many fire departments, such as the one I work for, you can work as a firefighter and EMT or firefighter and paramedic. This means you are responsible for all types of emergencies. You may respond on a fire engine to fires and calls for medical assistance.
Some departments will hire EMTs or paramedics that will work for the fire department, but only in the medical EMT/paramedic role. In this case, they will not be trained or equipped to handle fires and other non-medical emergencies. These types of EMT or paramedic positions will usually respond on an ambulance rather than a fire engine or truck.
Here is some insight from a firefighter/EMT about what the job is like:
Pros and Cons
So, let’s take a look at the PROS of becoming an EMT:
- Fast training. If you want to get into this kind of work, then the good news is that you don’t need to spend years at college to get started with your career. This can be a big deal to people who need to start earning or who simply don’t have years to give up to study. An EMT-basic course will take less than 200 hours of study and that means you can become an EMT in about 6-months, sometimes less. Of course, you still need to get certified and find a job, but that’s still pretty fast when compared to most skilled jobs.
- Job security. There’s no doubt that EMTs are always in high demand and that there’s always a shortage of EMTs to fill the jobs around you. That means that as long as you do a good job as an EMT, you should find yourself in the equivalent of a “job for life.” We would note, however, that it can pay to shop around employers every now and again if you want to get the best pay rates.
- The opportunity for career growth. EMT is a starting point for many careers as opposed to the final destination. You can continue to grow your medical skills, for example, by studying for the EMT-intermediate exam or becoming a paramedic. You could move into the fire service (as we’ve already seen). There are lots of ways to improve your career prospects with the solid foundation that EMT qualification brings.
- It’s an exciting career. Every day as an EMT is different. Most people wish for jobs like that all their lives. You will never have the same day twice. You will find yourself facing new challenges and new situations and learning new skills all the time. Plus, you get the satisfaction of knowing that when you do a good job, you make a real difference in other people’s lives.
This doesn’t mean that the life of an EMT is without its challenges though and there are some CONS to take into account:
- It’s hard physical work. EMTs are required to climb up and downstairs, to carry heavy equipment, to lift and move people, to stand for long periods, to crouch for long periods of time, etc. In short, the job takes a real toll on your body and if you’re not physically fit, it can be truly exhausting. The easiest way to overcome this con is to work out, start your life as an EMT in good shape, and then work to maintain that shape.
- It’s hard on you mentally. EMTs get to see the worst things that can happen to human beings. There’s no getting around that sooner or later, you’re going to see horrific injuries and quite possibly death. You may even find that you are the only person to share a patient’s last moments. In fact, occasionally, EMT’s patients can be dangerous. It’s not an easy job on the psyche at times.
- It can get boring. Some people are called to help others, they feel it in everything they do and it’s that calling which makes being an EMT an exciting and challenging job that you can be proud of. If you don’t enjoy that, then this job is one where you’re going to spend a lot of time doing hard physical labor in miserable circumstances and that means you may get bored or tired of the job in fairly short order. Caring for others isn’t for everyone and it’s important to recognize your own motivations before pursuing a career as an EMT.
We think that the pros far outweigh the cons of the work of an EMT, but it really does boil down to the individual. You need to ask yourself, honestly, about what you want from work before you decide to pursue a career in emergency medical services.
Here is another look at the pros and cons of being an EMT or paramedic:
Being an EMT is not the right choice for everybody. Far from it. It’s a physically and mentally demanding job that can really take it of you, but if you love to help others, it’s also a chance to make a truly positive difference in people’s lives and the community that you live in.
If you do opt for becoming an EMT and you do so for the right reasons, it can be a fantastically rewarding role that can open up the doors of real opportunity for your career. It can also be a great way to test the waters of EMS work before committing to a longer program of study.
Also read: How to Become an EMT: Expert Guide