Becoming a Wilderness Paramedic
Wilderness paramedics are highly trained emergency medical technicians (EMTs) who provide trauma care and other emergency services in remote areas. This occupation may be physically demanding. Wilderness paramedics might need to lift or carry patients and deal with combative individuals who may be confused or in pain due to injuries. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, EMTs and paramedics earned a mean annual salary of $35,430 in May 2015.
|Degree Level||None; formal training necessary for licensure|
|Licensing||Paramedic licensure required in all states|
|Experience||Entry level; 1+ years often preferred|
|Key Skills||Physical strength and compassion; strong relational, communication, critical-thinking, and problem-solving skills; familiarity with medical and information retrieval software, ability to use equipment including airway suction units, cots and stretchers, intravenous IV pumps, laryngoscopes, oxygen equipment and masks, splints, and spine boards|
|Salary||$35,430 (2015 average for all EMTs and paramedics)|
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*Net OnLine, Job postings by employers (October 2012)
To become a wilderness paramedic, you won't need a degree, but formal training in paramedicine is required to get a license, which is mandatory in all states. This is an entry-level position, but some employers desire at least 1 year of related experience. You do need to have physical strength, strong relational skills, excellent communication skills, compassion, critical-thinking and problem-solving abilities, familiarity with medical and information retrieval software, and the ability to use equipment including airway suction units, cots and stretchers, intravenous IV pumps, laryngoscopes, oxygen equipment and masks, splints and spine boards.
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Wilderness Paramedic Career Steps
Let's go over the steps it takes to become a wilderness paramedic.
Step 1: Complete a Paramedic Training Program and Earn Relevant EMT Licenses When Necessary
Paramedic training courses can be completed in more than one way. If an individual is interested in becoming trained as an EMT while studying to become a paramedic, he or she can enroll in a series of programs composed of an EMT-Basic, an EMT-Intermediate and a paramedic certificate program. Each program in such a series would act as a prerequisite to the next level, and each program will prepare an aspiring EMT or paramedic for a separate level of state licensure. In some cases, licensure at one level may be required before moving on to the next level of education. Although states have variances in requirements for paramedic licensing, all states require licensees to sit for the certification exam given through the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT).
In addition to this EMT-to-paramedic format of programs, an aspiring paramedic may choose to enter directly into an associate's degree program in paramedicine after high school. These programs typically take two years to complete and can be enrolled in without any previous academic or work experience in the emergency services. Due to the hands-on nature of the work, programs are typically structured to include lectures, labs, clinical sessions and field internships. Some typical areas covered in these types of programs include anatomy, pharmacology, cardiology and trauma.
Develop strong communication skills. Paramedics and EMTs need to have effective communication with patients and other medical workers due to the time-sensitive and intense nature of the work. A student may opt to take elective courses in areas like writing, public speaking or public relations to build speaking and listening abilities.
Keep physically fit. Being an EMT or paramedic requires physical strength, endurance and good overall health. Build physical health by being active, participating in exercise or considering supplemental or elective courses geared toward physical fitness.
Step 2: Get a Paramedic License
After completing paramedic training, an individual is ready for licensure as a paramedic. This process entails passing the paramedic-level exam administered by the NREMT. Once the exam and has been completed and additional state requirements have been met, an individual can get a paramedic license and consider searching for paramedic job openings to acquire work experience.
Step 3: Meet License Renewal Requirements
Paramedic licensure must be renewed every 2 years. This process requires a paramedic to take approved refresher training or continuing education courses that meet the objectives set by the National Standard EMT-Paramedic Refresher Curriculum. The last step entails successfully passing the cognitive and psychomotor exams required to maintain licensure.
Step 4: Consider Additional Wilderness EMT Training
Although some positions may not require specific training in wilderness emergency medical services, getting specialized training can improve job prospects and qualify an individual for a broader range of positions. A licensed paramedic might consider taking a 2-day intensive course designed to train licensed EMTs. In addition, wilderness training courses may count toward continuing education required by states to maintain licensure.
To become a wilderness paramedic, you'll need to complete paramedic training, obtain any required licensing, and get wilderness EMT training.