What Does An Emergency Medical Technician Do?

"I would like a career that would enable me to save the lives of people caught in emergencies. I understand that this would be that of an emergency medical technician (EMT) but I’m not very familiar about it. I would like to get more information on what emergency medical technicians do. Please help."

asked by Paul J. from Syracuse, New York

Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) are often the lifelines of those who find themselves at the brink of life and death. They are trained professionals who can perform lifesaving procedures in emergency situations before the patient can be transferred to the nearest hospital.

EMTs typically work in an ambulance in groups of two or three. They await instructions from a 911 dispatcher who will direct them to the location of the emergency that they need to respond and if available, the type of injuries sustained by the victims. Upon reaching the scene, they quickly evaluate the situation and decide on the best course of action to take.

For example, they may perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to someone rescued from downing or they may try to stave off bleeding in a trauma victim.

Once they have stabilized the patient as best they can, EMTs then transport the victim to the nearest healthcare facility. They see to it that the patient is kept still throughout the hospital trip with the use of backboards and restraints. During transfer, one EMT drives while the other constantly checks the patient’s vital signs. When they reach the hospital, they brief the attending doctors and hospital staff on the injury and the first aid treatment they have administered. They also make a more detailed patient care report which records the care that the emergency victim has obtained from the Emergency Medical Technicians.

EMTs depend not only on their technical training and skills to save lives but on their ambulance as well. This is because their vehicle is equipped with defibrillators, dressings and medications that allow them to administer the necessary procedures that need to be performed. Thus, they also know their ambulance like the palm of their hand.

Emergency Medical Technicians are trained at four different levels and the tasks that they can do will depend on the level of training they have received. Level 1 EMTs may include police officers or firefighters. They can perform lifesaving emergency procedures in extreme situations but aren’t allowed to transport patients. The other three levels are EMT-Basic, EMT-Advanced and paramedics.

Those who have basic training can take care of victims suffering from respiratory, cardiac and trauma situations while those with advanced training can do the job of those trained at the basic level and perform more complicated medical procedures like intravenous fluids and medications. Paramedics have the most advanced training of EMTs and as such, they can give both oral and intravenous medications, interpret EKGs and use sophisticated equipment to monitor the condition of the heart.

EMTs generally take 24-hour shifts and then rest for 48 hours. They need to be physically strong since they will be lifting and moving patients as well as be mentally alert because they need to assess the condition of a patient right away so they can determine the best course of action to take.

Career Spotlight: Emergency Medical Technician

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