Paramedic training is intense and rigorous, but the rewards of serving others can be tremendous.
Paramedics have a highly responsible role, often being the senior ambulance service healthcare professional in a range of emergency and non-emergency situations. You will be one of the first healthcare professionals to arrive at the scene.
Paramedics are usually the senior member of a two-person ambulance crew, with an emergency care assistant or technician to support them.
Or you might work on your own, using a motorbike, emergency response car or a bicycle to reach your patients. You might also work to provide advice over the telephone from a control room or clinical ‘hub’.
You will assess the patient’s condition and make potentially life-saving decisions about whether the patient can be treated at the scene or transferred to hospital. In non-life-threatening situations, you’ll use your professional judgement to make key clinical decisions.
In an emergency, you’ll use high-tech equipment such as defibrillators (which restore the heart’s rhythm), spinal and traction splints and intravenous drips, as well as administering oxygen and drugs.
You will be trained to drive what is in effect a mobile emergency clinic and to resuscitate and/or stabilise patients using sophisticated techniques, equipment and drugs. For example, you might be called out to someone who has fallen from scaffolding or an elderly person with a suspected stroke.
As well as contact with your patients, you will also deal with their relatives and friends and members of the public, some of whom might be highly distressed or aggressive. You will also often work alongside the police and fire and rescue services.
Based at a local ambulance station, you will work shifts, including evenings and weekends, going out in all weathers at all hours of the night or day. You will work closely with other healthcare teams in the community, such as:
- occupational therapists
- mental health teams
- diabetes specialists
- doctors and nurses in hospital emergency departments
During your career, you may have the opportunity to undertake further higher education to progress to one of the roles for experienced paramedics.
What are the requirements to be a paramedic?
The requirements to be a paramedic are extremely rigorous, so it’s not an undertaking or a career choice to be taken lightly. A paramedic is the highest level of EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) certification. A paramedic is trained and certified to perform advanced life support (ALS), which includes administering IV fluids, injections, medications and performing advanced respiratory procedures. A paramedic also performs many of the same functions as a basic EMT, such as treating wounds, performing CPR, delivering babies, and performing patient assessments.
Paramedics are often the lead member of a rescue team, with the most training and the most decision making power. This means that the requirements to be a paramedic include strong leadership skills and the ability to perform complex life-saving functions in extremely stressful crisis situations. A paramedic must keep a cool head and maintain authority amongst his or her team members in situations where a mistake can mean the difference between life and death.
BECOME AN EMT
The first of the training requirements to be a paramedic is to get certified as an EMT-B, which is the first and most basic level of EMT training. The EMT-B training is available through many community colleges and other institutions. It usually takes about six months to complete the 120 to 150 hours of training. After that, you take a state certification test.
As an EMT, you can be employed providing emergency treatment in ambulances and many other venues. Most people work as EMTs for a couple of years to get some experience before undergoing the additional 1,200 to 1,800 hours of training to become paramedic. Some paramedic programs require you to have worked as an EMT for six months or so before gaining entrance.
THE EDUCATION OF A PARAMEDIC
The educational requirements to be a paramedic are rigorous. Many community colleges have two-year degree programs in paramedic training. Oftentimes there’s a pre-requisite of college-level biology, math and English in order to be accepted in a paramedic program. The curriculum consists of both classroom training and clinical training at hospitals, ambulance companies and fire departments. A paramedic trainee studies anatomy and physiology, as well as courses such as advanced life support, advanced pediatric life support, and basic trauma life support.
TESTING FOR YOUR PARAMEDIC LICENSE
After you’ve completed the required training, the final step in fulfilling the requirements to be a paramedic is to take your state’s licensing examination. It’s a difficult test, but there are many great study guides to help you pass it. As a certified paramedic, you’ll have more job opportunities than as a basic EMT, plus you’ll make a higher salary and have more responsibility. You can work in a fire station, on a life support helicopter, in a hospital, on a cruise ship or in a wide variety of other exciting venues.
While the requirements to be a paramedic are arduous, the work itself can be extremely rewarding. Being a paramedic requires a dedication to the job that makes it more of an avocation than a vocation. It definitely isn’t the right choice for everybody, but for many, it’s the job of a lifetime.