Emergency medical technician training programs train EMTs to manage urgent care patients on the scene as well as in transport to hospitals or other medical facilities. The National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) offers five levels of national certification for emergency medical service providers. Three certificate training programs train individuals for designations as first responders, EMT-Basic, EMT-Intermediate/85, EMT-Intermediate/99 or Paramedic, and involve a good deal of hands-on practical training. States may impose additional regulations or restrictions on EMTs and most programs will require a high school diploma or GED.
EMT-Basic certificates train First Responders or EMT-Basic (EMT-B) professionals. Students in an EMT-Basic certificate program learn how to manage trauma, respiratory and cardiac emergencies as well as assess and report patients' current status. Many programs blend traditional coursework with hands-on emergency experience in ambulatory or emergency care, including how to:
- Use stretchers, splints, backboards, suction devices and oxygen delivery systems
- Control bleeding, stabilize fractures, and open airway obstructions
- Stabilize cardiac arrest victims
- Deliver babies
Intermediate EMT certificate programs can follow national standard curriculum established either in 1985 or in 1999. These programs continue basic training with advanced emergency care knowledge and skills.
Students in an EMT-Intermediate/85 certificate program study patient assessment, ventilation management and intravenous therapy. Those enrolled in an EMT-Intermediate/99 program take similar coursework, with patient assessment broken down into trauma and medical background. Intermediate 99 students also study cardiac management, IV and medication management and emergency pediatric care.
General learning objectives of EMT-intermediate certificate programs include:
- Airway devices
- Intravenous fluids and medications
- Spending significant time in the field
Paramedic programs, often offered as an associate's degree program at community colleges and technical schools, provide the most comprehensive EMT training available. This certificate program requires extensive fieldwork in ambulatory or urgent care facilities and ensures students are proficient in using complex medical equipment. Students take courses in and learn about things such as:
- Anatomy and physiology
- Human structure and function
- Pre-hospital procedures such as such as administering oral and intravenous medications, interpreting electrocardiograms (EKGs) and performing endotracheal intubations.
All certificate programs require extensive fieldwork and on-the-job training. These clinical experiences prepare EMTs and paramedics for employment. Actual time in the field increases with the more advanced certification levels. All emergency medical professionals must adhere to NREMT's guideline requirements for field experiences to be certified and maintain licensure.
Licenses and Certifications
All EMTs and paramedics in the U.S. must obtain NREMT or state-mandated licensure to practice emergency medical care. Each level requires candidates to complete NREMT-approved EMT certification programs as well as pass written and competency-based examinations. Passage of the EMT-Paramedic exam bestows the official designation of Paramedic. Typically, every 2-3 years EMTs and paramedics are required to renew their license and adhere to continuing education requirements. Licensure may be restricted due to criminal history.
Emergency medical professionals work long and often irregular hours. They must be agile and have good eyesight, dexterity and physical coordination. EMTs and paramedics must also be emotionally stable and capable of dealing with very stressful situations. Additionally, they must be able to lift and transport heavy loads on a daily basis.
Those who want to become EMTs will need to pick a course suitable for their current skill level and that will teach them the skills they are aiming to learn. There are many aspects to becoming an EMT that go beyond education, so research the profession before applying to a relevant program.