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EMS training in US EMS schools

Do you thrive on high-energy situations? Becoming an Emergency Medical Technician may provide both an exciting and fulfilling career opportunity. In this vocation, you may be called upon to quickly respond to a wide variety of emergency situations, ranging from car accidents to heart attacks. You may ride in an ambulance to reach the injured party. If the patient needs more advanced medical care, you may ride with him or her to a hospital, where you may deliver the patient's vitals to a nurse or physician.

All in a Day's Work for Emergency Medical Technicians

Although their training and certification may be the same, there are two types of emergency medical technicians (EMTs):

  • Paid EMTs may be at work and available during specific hours. Large cities generally employ EMTs as part of their fire, police, and rescue departments.
  • Volunteer EMTs on the other hand, may only respond to a medical emergency after being alerted by either two-way radio, monitor, or fire siren at any time of the day or night. Rural areas rely upon volunteers in their communities for rapid response to emergencies.

Those who chose to pursue an EMT may need certain traits and qualifications.

  • The ability to maintain a cool and calm head during a dire emergency
  • Physical strength is necessary, in order to move victims or patients and to carry or wear heavy equipment. Many fire departments require EMTs to wear fire gear when responding to vehicle accidents and other calls involving possible fire or chemical emergencies.
  • The ability to make rapid assessments of situations and symptoms in situations when time is of the essence, especially from the emergency scene to a trauma center
  • Empathy, concern and the ability to calm both patients and their friends or family in a dire situation
  • The ability to follow specific instructions is mandatory.

Typical Scenarios

On any given day an emergency medical technician may respond to a wide variety of emergencies.

One of the most common emergencies involve heart-related problems. An EMT may typically suspect a heart attack on any call where the patient is experiencing difficulty in breathing and has chest and/or upper left arm pain - classic heart attack symptoms. The EMT may always first ensure the patient has an open airway, is breathing, and has a heartbeat (ABCs).

If so, then a secondary survey is done in order to collect information that may indicate what further treatments or precautions should be taken. This survey may include:

  • Looking for:
    • Bleeding
    • Broken bones
    • Cuts and abrasions
    • Bruises
  • Recording:
    • Pulse
    • Blood pressure
  • Checking pupils for dilation
  • Evaluating the patient's ability to move extremities and response to stimuli

Only after bleeding and fractures are treated and the patient is stabilized is transport to an appropriate emergency facility undertaken. Although speed is essential in treating emergencies in the field, stabilization of the patient is equally important. Radio communications with the emergency room are maintained during transport so that a physician is able to issue any necessary directives upon arrival.

Applying CPR

If a patient is not breathing but has a heartbeat, an airway obstruction may be present and must be treated. Sometimes a patient is not breathing and does not have a pulse when the EMT arrives on the scene. In this case, the EMT must determine whether or not the patient is in cardiac arrest and take the steps necessary to initiate cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and defibrillation (using a machine to reestablish a normal heart rhythm).

Accident Response

The next call may involve an auto accident, when EMTs may work in conjunction with fire department personnel. An EMT must be aware of any downed electrical lines or physical dangers, like leaking gasoline on the scene. Generally, fire personnel may take care of those situations.

After determining safety in the area, the EMT must assess the trauma of the victims. Without moving an accident victim, the ABCs must be checked before a secondary survey is carried out. If the patient is to be moved, injury to the head and spinal cord must be assumed and the proper equipment applied to the victim prior to moving from the vehicle. After the victim is out of the vehicle, stabilization steps are taken.

On another call, an EMT might find someone with an impaled object like a nail in the foot. The next patient may have suffered a nasty burn while cooking dinner and another may have sustained a deep cut that is bleeding profusely. A baby may be delivered in the ambulance or a psychiatric patient calmed before transport.

The benefits even for an unpaid volunteer EMT, may be many. Knowing their EMT training has saved someone's life or eased someone's pain is the best reward an emergency medical technician may have.


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