Basic-level emergency technicians administer most of the pre-hospital emergency life-support and medical care, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. This means the technician first needs to be able to correctly assess the condition of the patient and the extent of his or her injuries, and then give appropriate care. The technician must also be able to move the patient in a manner that prevents further injury and causes no unnecessary discomfort to the patient. Thus, before an individual can start their career as a basic-level emergency technicians they require an EMT-Basic certification.
Each state has its own list of specific procedures that an EMT-B can and cannot do. For example, in South Carolina, basic EMTs cannot insert intravenous (IV) lines, but they may monitor and maintain an IV that is not administering blood products or medications, according to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (www.scdhec.gov).
States also vary in their certification and program prerequisites, such as education and examinations, although a high school diploma or GED is usually a must. Continuing education is also commonly required for re-certification.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Association (NHTSA) approves coursework for EMT-B programs nationwide (www.nhtsa.gov). Coursework in the EMT-B course develops emergency medical competencies, including assessment and management of trauma and medical patients, spinal immobilization of a seated or prone patient, shock management, and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation with and without supplemental oxygen. In addition to an advanced airway elective, the approved EMT-B curriculum has 46 core lessons in seven modules:
- Patient assessment
- Common emergency types
- Infants and children
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
Basic and intermediate EMTs are hired primarily by ambulance services. In small communities, their services may be voluntary. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 241,200 EMTs and paramedics as of May 2014. The BLS estimated a 24% increase between 2014 and 2024. Nationwide, the average annual salary for emergency medical technicians and paramedics was $35,430 as of May 2015 (www.bls.gov).
EMT-B certification is valid for two years. Professionals may recertify through continuing education or examination. Basic-level EMTs who choose education must complete 72 hours of continuing education; including a national 24-hour EMT-Basic refresher that meets DOT requirements. The remaining 48 hours of EMT-related continuing education courses must include 16 hours covering certain areas of the job. Recertification also requires that the professional must be actively working as an EMT, hold a current CPR certification or license and meet the appropriate EMT level requirements.
EMT-B professionals may use the required continuing education hours for schooling to obtain a higher certification as an EMT-Intermediate (EMT-I) or EMT-Paramedic (EMT-P). The highest level of EMT, the EMT-P, is often just referred to as a paramedic. Paramedics are able to give both oral and intravenous drugs and perform other emergency medical operations. They are often hired by hospitals to work in the emergency room.
EMTs are usually the first medical personnel on the scene of an accident, and thus need to have a certain level of medical training and certification. EMT-B certification programs teach basic-level emergency technicians what they need to know to perform pre-hospital emergency life-support and medical care.