Nature of the Work
People's lives often depend on the quick reaction and competent care of emergency medical technicians (EMTs). Incidents as varied as automobile accidents, heart attacks, slips and falls, childbirth, and gunshot wounds require immediate medical attention. EMTs provide this vital service as they care for and transport the sick or injured to a medical facility.
EMTs assess the nature of the patient's condition while trying to determine whether the patient has any pre-existing medical conditions. Following protocols and guidelines, they provide emergency care and transport the patient to a medical facility. EMTs operate in emergency medical services systems where a physician provides medical direction and oversight.
EMTs use special equipment, such as backboards, to immobilize patients before placing them on stretchers and securing them in the ambulance for transport to a medical facility. These workers generally work in teams. During the transport of a patient, one drives, while the other monitors the patient's vital signs and gives additional care, as needed. At the medical facility, EMTs help transfer patients to the emergency department, report their observations and actions to emergency department staff, and may provide additional emergency treatment.
Beyond these general duties, the specific responsibilities of EMTs depend on their level of qualification and training. The National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) certifies emergency medical service providers at four levels: emergency medical responder (EMR), emergency medical technician (EMT), advanced emergency medical technician (AEMT), and paramedic.
The EMT represents the first response of the emergency medical system. An EMT trained at this level is prepared to care for patients at the scene of an accident and while transporting patients by ambulance to the hospital under the direction of more highly trained medical personnel. The EMT has the emergency skills to assess a patient's condition and manage respiratory, cardiac, and trauma emergencies. The AEMT has more advanced training. However, the specific tasks that those certified at this level are allowed to perform varies greatly from state to state.