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What Do Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics Do?

What does an emergency medical technician (EMT) or paramedic do?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, EMTs and paramedics care for the sick or injured in emergency medical settings. People’s lives often depend on the quick reaction and competent care provided by these workers. EMTs and paramedics respond to emergency calls, performing medical services and transporting patients to medical facilities.

A 911 operator sends EMTs and paramedics to the scene of an emergency, where they often work with police and firefighters.

Duties

EMTs and paramedics typically do the following:

  • Respond to 911 calls for emergency medical assistance, such as providing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or bandaging a wound
  • Assess a patient’s condition and determine the course of treatment
  • Provide first-aid treatment or life support care to sick or injured patients
  • Transport patients safely in an ambulance
  • Transfer patients to the emergency department of a hospital or other healthcare facility
  • Report their observations and treatment to physicians, nurses, or other healthcare facility staff
  • Document medical care given to patients
  • Inventory, replace, and clean supplies and equipment after use

When transporting a patient in an ambulance, one EMT or paramedic may drive the ambulance while another monitors the patient’s vital signs and gives additional care. Some paramedics work as part of a helicopter’s or an airplane’s flight crew to transport critically ill or injured patients to a hospital.

EMTs and paramedics also transport patients from one medical facility to another. Some patients may need to be transferred to a hospital that specializes in treating their particular injury or illness or to a facility that provides long-term care, such as a nursing home.

If a patient has a contagious disease, EMTs and paramedics decontaminate the interior of the ambulance and may need to report the case to the proper authorities.

The specific responsibilities of EMTs and paramedics depend on their level of certification and the state they work in. The National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) provides national certification of EMTs and paramedics at four levels: EMR, EMT, Advanced EMT, and Paramedic. Some states, however, have their own certification programs and use similar titles.

  • Emergency Medical Responders, or EMRs, are trained to provide basic medical care with minimal equipment. These workers may provide immediate lifesaving interventions while waiting for other emergency medical services (EMS) resources to arrive. Jobs in this category may also go by a variety of titles including Emergency Care Attendants, Certified First Responders, or similar.
  • An EMT, also known as an EMT-Basic, cares for patients at the scene of an incident and while taking patients by ambulance to a hospital. An EMT has the skills to assess a patient’s condition and to manage respiratory, cardiac, and trauma emergencies.
  • An Advanced EMT, also known as an EMT-Intermediate, has completed the requirements for the EMT level as well as instruction in more advanced medical procedures, such as administering intravenous fluids and some medications.
  • Paramedics provide more extensive pre-hospital care than EMTs do. In addition to doing the tasks of EMTs, paramedics can give medications orally and intravenously, interpret electrocardiograms (EKGs)—which monitor heart function—and use other monitors and complex equipment.

The specific tasks or procedures EMTs and paramedics are allowed to perform vary by state.