EMT: Become an EMT in 5 Steps
Are you looking for a medical career? Would you like to help people at the scenes of accidents and emergencies? If so, you might want to look into becoming an emergency medical technician (EMT). Learn more about this career and its requirements here. Schools offering Fire & Emergency Services degrees can also be found in these popular choices.
What is an EMT?
EMTs are dispatched by 911 operators to the scenes of emergencies, where they stabilize patients and then transport them to medical facilities. If you decide to become an EMT, your scope of practice will vary depending on your level of training. EMT-Basics can assess patients, perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), provide basic life support, use automated external defibrillators (AEDs) and assist patients with taking their own medications. EMT-Intermediates can perform some additional duties, but those duties may vary greatly between states. Paramedics are EMTs with the most advanced training and may provide advanced life support, administer medications both orally and intravenously, monitor electrocardiograms (EKGs) and perform endotracheal intubations.
Step 1: Earn a Basic Life Support (BLS) for Healthcare Providers Card
While some EMT-Basic programs allow you to concurrently earn an American Heart Association BLS for Healthcare Providers card, others require that you earn this card as a prerequisite. The BLS Healthcare Provider course offered by the American Heart Association provides instruction in performing CPR, using an AED and relieving choking (americanheart.org). At the end of the course, you must pass a written and practical exam to receive your course completion card.
Step 2: Complete an EMT-Basic Training Program
EMT-Basic training may take as little as three weeks or as long as one semester to complete. During your training, you will receive instruction in anatomy and physiology, medical terminology, assessing patients, treating traumatic injuries, delivering babies and dealing with emotional problems. You will also be required to complete clinical and field experiences that allow you to work in a clinical environment and ride along on an ambulance. You must complete a background check and physical examination before you may complete your clinical and field experiences. Most EMT-Basic programs result in a certificate upon completion.
Step 3: Earn a License
After you have completed your EMT-Basic training course, you must become licensed. Although each state has its own licensure requirements, most require that you earn certification from the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT). According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most states require continuing education and licensure renewal every 2-3 years (www.bls.gov).
Step 4: Complete an EMT-Intermediate Training Program
If you would like to advance your career after becoming a licensed EMT-Basic and gaining some work experience, you may go on to complete an EMT-Intermediate training program. The BLS reports that these programs require between 30 and 350 hours of training. You will study more advanced topics like intravenous therapy, pharmacology, advanced airway management and EKG interpretation. You must then fulfill state licensure requirements, which may include earning certification from the NREMT.
Step 5: Consider Becoming a Paramedic
Most paramedic training programs last 1-2 years and result in a certificate or associate's degree. In some cases, you may enroll in a paramedic-training program after earning your EMT-Basic license. You may take courses in pharmacology, cardiology, critical care, pediatrics and geriatrics. You may also be required to complete a field internship. After completion of your program, you must earn certification from the NREMT or complete other state licensure requirements.
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