On the Job


EMTs and paramedics must handle stressful situations and react quickly and confidently. Lives literally depend on it. EMTs and paramedics respond to car accidents, heart attacks, drownings, gunshot wounds, childbirths and other emergencies. These can include environmental crises, natural disasters and even terrorist attacks.

This is a physically demanding career with long and irregular hours. EMTs and paramedics work about 50 hours a week. Those affiliated with hospitals may have even longer hours. This is a 24-hour operation, and emergency responders must often be on call, ready to roll.

Accidents and emergencies don’t wait for bad weather to pass; at times snow, flooding or even a heat wave are responsible for the emergencies. Emergency responders do lots of heavy lifting, bending and kneeling. The sirens are loud. The work means potential exposure to hepatitis-B, AIDS and violence. Emergencies can involve mentally unstable patients and drug overdose victims. Workers at the scene need to remain calm and in control to both administer care and handle distraught relatives, friends and onlookers.

Even with all that, or perhaps because of it, this can be a rewarding career. Those who work in this field enjoy their jobs and their ability to make a difference.

EMTs and paramedics have different levels of training and responsibility. The EMT-Basic, also known as EMT-1, is an entry-level job. Training covers how to assess a patient’s condition and manage respiratory, cardiac and trauma emergencies. Minor accidents or emergencies often are handled on site, such as a home or workplace. With more serious events, basic EMTs take care of patients at scene and while they in the ambulance on the way to the hospital, monitoring vital signs and taking medical direction from the hospital by radio.

Paramedics have more training and can administer more sophisticated emergency care. They use manual defibrillators, administer intravenous fluids and apply advanced airway techniques and equipment to help patients with breathing emergencies. Paramedics also give patients oral and intravenous drugs; insert tubes in patients’ throats if they can’t breathe any other way; interpret electrocardiograms (EKGs); and use monitors and other complex equipment.

Outside of the hospital and emergency room, a paramedic is the highest-ranking medical professional. They and EMTs transfer patients into the hospital and into the care and responsibility of the emergency room medical staff.

It is hard to imagine the scene of a bad car accident, natural disaster or medical crisis at home without an ambulance in the picture. Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics have become a vital part of both our public safety and health care systems. Responding to emergencies, administering care and saving lives is exciting. It also is difficult and stressful. But this demanding profession is always in demand, especially in cities and private ambulance services. Volunteer State Community College offers training for entry-level EMTs as well as paramedics.