A emergency medical technician (EMT) is a health care worker who provides medical assistance to patients while they are en route to the hospitals. They are always the first one at the scene of the accident and are responsible for the initial assessment of a patient’s condition. The vast majority of EMTs in the United States work on a land ambulance, but sometimes you may see them on an air ambulance helicopter or plane.

EMT Job Description

EMTs give immediate response to 911 calls. As the first healthcare provider at the scene of emergency situations, they collaborate with firefighters and police in evaluating the situation. They attend emergencies from minor injuries to severe casualties arising from land and air accidents, fires, natural disasters, criminal violence, and other incidents. Ambulances usually have two or more crew members, which includes a paramedic along with an emergency medical technician (EMT) or emergency care assistant. Nowadays, ambulance vehicles are equipped with many high-tech devices resembling those found in the emergency department of a hospital, such as electrocardiograms (EKGs), automated external defibrillator (AED), X-ray devices, etc.

A EMT’s duty when they first arrive at the scene is to properly assess the patient’s condition and to quickly determine the course of action necessary to stabilize the patient. The assessment includes a head-to-toe survey and the ABC of Emergency Medicine (airway, breathing and circulation). EMTs will then take the patient to the hospital via an ambulance while making sure the patient’s condition is stable during the ride. They do this by using specialized equipment called backboards, which immobilizes the patient before they are placed on a stretcher for secure transport. In many cases, this initial assessment and treatment is crucial to the survival of the patient. Being a EMT can be stressful at times and requires the ability to handle a great deal of responsibility, especially when an individual’s life is in their hands.

The typical duties of an EMT includes:
  • Help to resuscitate patients in an emergency before hospital admission
  • Provide medical assistance during emergency situations, such as CPR, AED, prevent shock, control severe bleeding, prevent spinal damage, etc.
  • Evaluate a patient’s condition in order to determine the right course of treatment
  • Monitor patient’s condition and keep it stable while en route to the hospital
  • Aid in the transfer of patients to the emergency units of hospitals
  • Help to calm down the family members of the victim and the public on the scene
  • Create a patient care report and take notes of the medical treatment given to the patient
  • Keep the equipment clean after use; check and replace damaged and used supplies
  • Decontaminate the interior of the ambulance if it is used to transport a patient suffering from a contagious disease

EMT Prerequisites

Candidates are expected to have a high school diploma or the equivalent and CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) certification before enrolling in programs to become a paramedic. It is recommended that high school students who want to build a career in this field take courses in physiology and anatomy.

How to become an EMT

Formal training is provided to qualified applicants by community colleges, technical institutes, and facilities that specialize in providing training for emergency care. There are three progressive levels of training; each requires additional coursework, hands-on training, and certification: EMT-B (basic level), EMT-I (intermediate level) and advanced level training for Paramedics (EMT-P). Individuals designated as EMTs have levels of training up to an EMT intermediate level. In general, EMT-Bs receive at least 110 hours of classroom training, whereas EMT-Is have 200–400 hours of training. An EMT trained at these levels is prepared to care for patients at the scene of an accident and assess a patient’s condition and manage respiratory, cardiac, and trauma emergencies. Extensive clinical and field experience is also required.

EMT Certification

The certification for paramedics is provided by the National Registry of Emergency Technicians (NREMT) and is required by all 50 states. Before an applicant is given any certification by NREMT, he/she is expected to complete a certified education program or training and to pass the NREMT national written and practical exams. Once certified, a minimum number of continuing education hours are required every year by the state board to maintain certification.

Most states require EMTs to renew their licences every two or three years. The NREMT also offers a certification program, which consists of additional training and exams.

EMT Salary

Click here for EMT Salary Page

EMT Job Description Summary

Here is a short recap of the EMT job description:
  • Provide medical assistance to patients en route to hospital
  • Work with paramedic, emergency care assistant, etc.
  • EMT-B requires 110 hours of training
  • EMT-I requires 200-400 hours of training
  • Must obtain certification before practice
  • 23% employment growth by 2022