Emergency Medical Technician (EMT): Job Description, Training & Requirements
Emergency medical technicians help to treat those who have been struck by sudden injury or ailment and stabilize them so that they can be transported to hospitals. Find out what an emergency medical technician is, the kind of training they must undergo, and the requirements that must be met.
What Does an Emergency Medical Technician Do?
Emergency Medical Technicians, or EMTs, are first responders who travel to the scene of a medical emergency in order to perform life-saving procedures and get a victim stable enough to take to a full medical facility such as a hospital. They spend much of their time traveling in or driving ambulances, heading where ever they are needed. EMTs are also required to report on a patient's status once they drop them off at a hospital for more intensive treatment, and are generally responsible for the cleanliness and organization of the ambulance to which they are assigned. Being an EMT also requires that an individual undergo brief but intensive training and obtain certification and licensure proving their competency.
Aspiring EMTs should be able to keep calm in emergency situations, and capable of communicating clearly and effectively under stress. Showing compassion towards patients and their loved ones is also important, as is having the physical ability to perform strenuous activities such as lifting or moving patients. EMTs must also be able to handle death, as patients may pass away while EMTs are working to save them.
EMT training and education is most commonly done through post-secondary certificates, which generally take several months to complete. Accelerated training programs may also be available in some areas, during which time a condensed course covers all of the critical material in just a few weeks. Online EMT training does exist, but only covers classroom work. Subjects covered in traditional EMT programs include:
- EMT fundamentals
- Medical emergencies
- Trauma emergencies
Most EMT programs include some form of internship or practical experience, intended to give students an idea of what the realities of the job are. Emergency simulations are also a common part of EMT training, and can be physically demanding. Those participating in online training will still need to obtain these practical experiences locally.
Aside from training, there are many other requirements that must be met in order to become an EMT. Applicants must be over the age of 18 and hold a high school diploma or equivalent. Those younger than 18 can sometimes participate in junior EMT programs which allow teens to learn some basics of the job and find out what it's like. Educational programs will generally want individuals to already have some basic life support training, and have completed a CPR class from organizations like the Red Cross. Vaccinations must be current, often including vaccinations for the flu and other common illnesses. EMTs are frequently required to submit to criminal background checks and drug screenings before receiving training or being hired.
Certification and Licensure for EMTs
Nationally, certification for EMTs is done through the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT), which meets licensing requirements in most states. NREMT offers several different levels of emergency medical services certification, with the most relevant being the Emergency Medical Technician, or EMT-Basic, and Advanced EMT or A-EMT. Both credentials require that an applicant pass a cognitive exam, based on their knowledge of emergency medicine, and a psychomotor exam, which evaluates their skills at performing procedures. Applicants are also required to be 18 years or older, have a current certification in basic life support and CPR for healthcare providers, and have taken and passed an appropriate course in EMT (or AEMT) training in the last two years. The AEMT credential additionally requires that candidates already hold a valid license as an EMT. In order to stay certified, EMTs must participate in continuing education and renew their certification every 2 years.
Some states do have their own certifications or licensure exams that operate independently of NREMT certification. Check the laws in your state to find out the exact certification and licensure requirements you will be expected to meet.