What Is a Paramedic?

A paramedic is a well-trained emergency medical technician (EMT) tasked with responding to emergency calls to treat and transport injured or sick patients to a medical facility. These professionals must go through an accredited technical education program and get certified. Read on to learn more about paramedic job duties, education requirements and career prospects. Schools offering Fire & Emergency Services degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Job Description

A paramedic's job is to respond to an emergency and provide immediate medical care to stabilize sick or injured persons. Usually arriving in an ambulance or other emergency vehicle, the paramedic may supply advanced life support en route to a hospital or treat less-severe injuries on site. This role differs from the other levels of EMTs, EMT-Basic or EMT-Intermediate, because paramedics are trained to administer medications intravenously and perform minor emergency operations related to airway obstructions.

Important Facts About Paramedics

On-the-Job Training Broadest education and training in the field required for the advanced position of paramedic
Key Skills Critical thinking, close listening, service oriented, social perceptiveness, problem solving, quick judgment and decision making, reading comprehension, effective speaking and writing
Work Environment Ambulance services, government agencies, hospitals
Similar Occupations Firefighters, police officers, detectives, physicians' assistants, registered nurses

Job Duties

These professionals provide pre-hospital care, and their responsibilities, as defined by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, include patient assessment and monitoring, administering medication, providing first aid, performing CPR and, in some cases, performing minor operations.

Patient Assessment and Monitoring

The first job of a paramedic is to immediately assess the state of the injured at the scene of the emergency. If necessary, he or she will contact the health care facility where the injured will be transported for further care. The paramedic provides real-time reports of the patient's vital signs to a doctor at the medical facility and communicates with that doctor until the patient can be transferred to the doctor's care.

Medication Administration

Paramedics administer medications such as narcotics, anesthetics, sedatives and anti-convulsants both intravenously and orally. Understanding drug reactions and interactions is crucial.

CPR and First Aid

Depending on the type of emergency, paramedics may bandage wounds, set broken bones or treat burns. These professionals are trained to provide cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and cardiac defibrillation for cases of cardiac arrest.

Minor Operations

If airway restriction has occurred, a paramedic may perform endotracheal intubations, creating an incision in the neck to create airflow. This, like any operation performed by a paramedic, is done while in direct contact with a physician.

Education and Training

In order to become a paramedic, one must be in good physical shape and be formally trained through an accredited training program, which takes at least a year. In addition, an associate's degree may be required. Schools usually require CPR certification and a high school diploma to enroll in a paramedic program, and these programs cover both basic and advanced EMT topics along with medical courses. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that 1,200 instruction hours are usually needed in such programs (www.bls.gov).

A paramedic must also pass a certification exam given by the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) or the paramedic's state, whichever applies. To qualify for the exam, one usually must have completed an approved education program, be at least 18 years old and pass a background check.

Job Outlook and Salary

According to the BLS, job growth for EMTs and paramedics is expected to be much faster than average over the 2016-2026 decade, with a growth rate of 15% expected. These professionals will be needed to respond to the increasing number of emergencies that occur, such as heart attacks and car crashes. The median annual wage for EMTs and paramedics was $34,320 in May 2018, reported the BLS. Most of these workers were paid between $22,760 and $58,640.

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