Finding Out How to Become a Paramedic
The word “paramedic” can be broken down into two parts — the Greek word “para” (meaning “with” or “beside”) and our slang word “medic” which can be used to refer to any kind of doctor or medical personnel. Paramedics, then, are people who work alongside doctors to provide medical assistance.
Specifically, paramedics are responsible for fast action in the case of a medical emergency. Want to know how to become a paramedic? Want to work alongside police and firefighters to save and protect life? If you think you have the guts to handle everything from car accidents, heart attacks, and childbirth, to gunshot wounds and burns, the paramedic field is an exciting and rewarding way to serve your fellow man. Paramedics provide the kind of fast attention that sick or injured people need while they are being transported to a medical facility for long-term treatment.
People who want to know how to become a paramedic may not realize the extensive training and time it takes to earn that title. Because paramedics are dispatched in emergency situations by 911 operators and other safety officials, they are the “best of the best” in the medical world, cool headed individuals with extensive medical knowledge and a heart for saving lives.
How to Become a Paramedic – Knowing What Paramedics Do
Once a team of paramedics arrives at the scene of an accident or other injury, they rapidly determine the cause and extent of a patient’s medical problem while at the same time determining a patient’s medical history and giving the appropriate emergency care. All of this takes place at the same time — in the background, a paramedic has to be concerned with whether or not this patient will need transportation to a hospital.
In some cases, paramedics provide the most basic medical care or life support in transit to a hospital — other times, when an injury is more complicated or life threatening, the paramedic works with a doctor via radio to carry out more complex procedures. This means a paramedic must be capable of affixing a band-aid and providing comfort or keeping a patient’s heart beating and starting IV lines, all in a day’s work. Paramedics are the best source of medical care outside of a hospital — paramedics have the ability to administer medication (by mouth or by injection) read medical tests like electrocardiograms, intubate patients with breathing complications, and set up “triage” care for multiple injuries.
Becoming a Paramedic
Before becoming a paramedic you must be an EMT, or Emergency Medical Technician. To be certified as an EMT, you’ll have to take coursework in emergency skills like patient assessment, cardiac emergencies, and basic medical first aid. There are formal “college-style” courses for EMTs that students will combine with experience working in emergency rooms or on an ambulance crew.
EMT programs also give you instruction and experience with blood and other bodily fluids (you’ll be seeing plenty of that as a paramedic), as well as basic medical emergencies, from broken bones to emergency childbirth. EMT students learn how to use the most basic and common emergency medical equipment like suction devices, backboards, oxygen, splints, and stretchers. Once you graduate an EMT training program, you’ll be asked to take a written test and a “practical” test that is administered by the state board where you are training. This makes you a Registered EMT Basic.
Community colleges and many state colleges and hospitals offer the right training you need to become certified as a paramedic. You’ll be training for between 750 to 1,500 hours in the classroom and in the field, depending on the state you’re certifying in.
To get to the Paramedic level, a medical practitioner will get even more training in the human body and medical skills, and paramedic education requires graduation from one of any number of accredited schools. EMTs who want to become paramedics have to take something called the NREMTE, or National Registry EMT Examination. Combine this with lots of clinical and field experience, continuing education classes, and a little bit of work assisting police and fire authorities, and you’re on your way to being a paramedic.
The nature of the work of a paramedic means that you’ll need to spend lots of time at work both indoors and outdoors, in all types of weather, at all hours. Paramedics must be physically fit, able to lift heavy things, kneel, run, and provide all sorts of medical support at a moment’s notice. As for working hours, paramedics that are employed by city fire departments tend to work 40-50 hour work weeks, while paramedics on hospital staff will usually work longer hours, as much as 60 hours per week.
According to the National Association of EMTs, there are about 300,000 paramedic jobs available in America, meaning there is competition for jobs but also a growing opportunity for people interested in this vital medical specialization. There’s a greater and greater need for paramedics as time goes on — the population grows, the population in urban areas grows more dense, and health care in rural areas is harder and harder to find — so there’s always a need for high-speed medical care no matter what part of the country you’re in.
Why Become a Paramedic
Besides the desire to help people or earn a great living in a field with plenty of variety, many people become paramedics in order to become firefighters. A growing number of fire departments in America now require applicants to gain Paramedic certification before they can take the initial examinations to become firefighters. Paramedics are well-compensated financially — EMTs start at an average of $42,000 and it is not uncommon for a hospital-based paramedic with some job experience to pull in a six figure salary — the financial benefits are there as well as the personal reward of saving lives.
Though the road to becoming a paramedic is difficult and many people will drop out during training to pursue other careers, those that make it all the way to the rank of paramedic will find financial and personal gain, as well as the adoration of the citizens of their area. While a career as a paramedic may not be as glamorous as TV and movies make it out to be, there are not many jobs out there that catapult you to instant hero status like an EMT / paramedic.
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