Paramedics are responsible for providing emergency medical care for patients who are injured or ill in an emergency or critical situation. A paramedic may be needed for a variety of emergency situations that may include automobile or boating accidents, cardiac arrest, strokes, assaults, shootings, fires, smoke inhalation, and numerous other possible scenarios.
The National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) outlines four levels for EMTs: First Responder, EMT-Basic, EMT-Intermediate and EMT-Paramedic. The EMT-Paramedic is the highest level attainable by EMTs. Paramedics require a great deal more training than EMT-Bs, and are considered advanced life support (ALS) personnel while EMT-B s are considered basic life support (BLS) personnel. Becoming a Paramedic takes approximately 18-24 months of training. Those students training for paramedic are then required to take a certification exam. Paramedics are qualified to perform considerably more medical procedures than BLS personnel. These additional procedures may include administering medications and interpreting EKGs. However, states differ in what paramedics are allowed to do.
Once trained and certified, Paramedics may work in a variety of settings. Some may work in a hospital, urgent care or clinic setting under the supervision of a Registered Nurse, Medical Director, or other licensed professional. Others may work for an Air Evacuation or Transport via helicopter to accident scenes, or transporting patients from one hospital to a specialty hospital for specialized treatment. Less common and typically part time or intermittent opportunities include sporting events or administering physical agility tests for employment assessments for firefighters or law enforcement officers. However, the most common employment for paramedics is with an ambulance service, working as part of a team responding to emergency calls.
The emergency team responds to emergency situations through dispatchers who direct the team to the scene and relay what information is available about the nature of the emergency call. Once on scene, Paramedics perform an assessment of the situation, than take appropriate steps as dictated by protocol.
On the scene, Paramedics may need to perform emergency treatments or procedures. Once the patient is ready, the emergency team will transport the patient to an emergency room or trauma center. Paramedics may use specialized equipment such as EKGs, oxygen tanks, and defibrillators. Throughout the entire process, effective communication is critical.
Paramedics need to communicate with the dispatcher, ER Staff and other on-site emergency personnel. Written communication includes observing, recording and reporting to ER staff the patient’s condition, patient’s known history, any treatment administered on site or during transport, changes in the patient’s condition, vital sign information, and/or any drugs administered.
An EMT paramedic salary will be different; depending on the employment setting, geographic location, number of calls, and training and experience of the individual. As recent graduates, the salary range can be anywhere from $28,000 to $40,000, with degreed paramedics earning the higher end of the scale. Seasoned veterans can usually earn anywhere from $50,000 to $70,000 per year. The higher pay may also come with supervisory roles, employment with a government agency or in a hospital setting. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2008, approximately 27 percent of EMTs and Paramedics belonged to a union.