Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics care for the sick or injured in emergency medical settings. People’s lives often depend on the quick reaction and competent care provided by these workers. EMTs and paramedics respond to emergency calls, performing medical services and transporting patients to medical facilities.
A 911 operator sends EMTs and paramedics to the scene of an emergency, where they often work with police and firefighters. When transporting a patient in an ambulance, one EMT or paramedic may drive the ambulance while another monitors the patient’s vital signs and gives additional care. Some paramedics work as part of a helicopter’s or an airplane’s flight crew to transport critically ill or injured patients to a hospital.
EMTs and paramedics also transport patients from one medical facility to another. Some patients may need to be transferred to a hospital that specializes in treating their particular injury or illness or to a facility that provides long-term care, such as a nursing home. If a patient has a contagious disease, EMTs and paramedics decontaminate the interior of the ambulance and may need to report the case to the proper authorities.
The specific responsibilities of EMTs and paramedics depend on their level of certification and the state they work in. The National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) provides national certification of EMTs and paramedics at three levels: EMT, Advanced EMT, and Paramedic. Some states, however, have their own certification programs and use similar titles.
An EMT, also known as an EMT-Basic, cares for patients at the scene of an incident and while taking patients by ambulance to a hospital. An EMT has the skills to assess a patient’s condition and to manage respiratory, cardiac, and trauma emergencies.
An Advanced EMT, also known as an EMT-Intermediate, has completed the requirements for the EMT level, as well as instruction in more advanced medical procedures, such as administering intravenous fluids and some medications.
Paramedics provide more extensive prehospital care than do EMTs. In addition to doing the tasks of EMTs, paramedics can give medications orally and intravenously, interpret electrocardiograms (EKGs)—which monitor heart function—and use other monitors and complex equipment.
The specific tasks or procedures EMTs and paramedics are allowed to perform at any level vary by state.