What Is It Like Being an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)?
Mar 13, 2015 | 9:00 am
If you’re considering becoming an EMT, you might wonder what the job involves and how to get prepared for it. As a career field that’s growing faster than average for all occupations—the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts a 23 percent employment increase between 2012 and 2022—becoming an EMT is one of the hottest jobs in the United States.
But it’s not a job for just anyone.
Some people might feel drawn to the flexible work hours or the adrenaline rush, but a true EMT finds long-term career satisfaction in helping in emergency situations daily.
“Being an EMT is awesome because my soul is satisfied in serving others in need,” says Patrick Powers, director of EMS for an ambulance company in Orange County, California. “My favorite aspect of the job is the freedom to be out in the community, ready to go at any moment.”
EMT Job Duties
From providing care in emergency medical situations to transporting patients between medical facilities, EMTs are often the first to arrive on an emergency medical scene, and their competent care can make the difference to a person’s life outcome. According to the BLS, some of the most common EMT job duties include:
•Assessing patients and determining care
•Performing CPR and managing wounds
•Utilizing equipment to secure and immobilize patients
•Communicating observations to hospital staff
•Clearing a patient’s obstructed airways
It’s a job that involves working indoors and outdoors, in a variety of weather conditions, during traditional and nontraditional work hours. The BLS notes that EMTs have higher rates of injury and illness than the national average, probably from encountering situations that involve violent patients or those with contagious diseases—as well as all the bending, lifting, kneeling and other physical activity. Yet for those who love the work, the benefits outweigh the risks.
“When I’m on duty and in a public place with lots of people, I like to look around and think that if any single person in the place needed medical help, I’m right over here,” says Powers.
How to Get Started
If this all sounds interesting, you might wonder about the best way to get prepared for EMT work. Powers has a few suggestions for future EMTs who want to gain early practice and experience:
“First, take a CPR class and a basic first aid class or try lifeguarding,” he says. “See if you like it.”
“Second, if you like helping others and really want to be an EMT, start with the lower level of Emergency Medical Responder and lay a foundation of knowledge,” Powers adds. “Then do EMT.”
You can earn much of this early experience during high school or through part-time volunteer opportunities. If EMT work still has appeal, the next steps involve getting the appropriate training and certification. According to the BLS, this would include completing a one- to two-year EMT training program, getting certified through the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians and obtaining licensure. Some states allow certification requirements to cover licensure requirements, but other states keep the two steps separate.
From answering calls that result in false alarms to encountering patients in life-threatening situations, EMTs see it all. They work day and night, holidays and weekends, helping the community receive help as soon as possible in emergency situations. Being an EMT is nothing less than amazing.