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EMS Refresher Course and Class Information

Emergency medical services (EMS) workers provide pre-hospital care to patients who need urgent treatment. There are several categories of EMS workers, including First Responder, EMT-Basic, EMT-Intermediate and Paramedic. EMS workers must take refresher courses every few years to keep certification current. Courses are available through local colleges and universities or online.

Essential Information

Courses to become an EMS worker are available through programs at the certificate and associate degree level. Refresher courses are available for all types of EMS workers. Requirements for refresher or continuing education courses vary according to designation and state mandates, but can last from 12-72 hours. Some of the course topics are as follows:

  • Airways
  • Ventilation
  • Trauma
  • Resuscitation
  • OB/GYN
  • Cardiology

List of Courses

First Responder Refresher Course

As their name suggests, first responders arrive at the scene of an accident before other EMS members. They must take a refresher course every few years after completing an initial training program. Although the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) only requires a state-approved 12-hour refresher course, or 12 hours of continuing education credit, some states require first responder refresher courses to cover 16 or 24 hours. Covered topics include trauma, patient assessment and cardiovascular care. Some refresher courses include cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) renewal sessions, while others don't.

EMT-Basic Refresher Course

Active EMTs must plan on refreshing their knowledge and skills every two years. The guidelines for the EMT-Basic (EMT-B) refresher course are based on the U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) national standards. This requires EMTs to take a 24-hour DOT-approved refresher course or complete 24 hours of continuing education. Class topics must cover obstetrics, infants and children, medical and behavior, patient assessment, preparatory, airway, trauma and electives. On top of the 24-hour course, EMT-B recertification also requires an additional 48 hours of EMT-related training.

EMT-Intermediate Refresher Course

Per DOT guidelines, the EMT-I refresher courses have similar requirements and must be completed every 2-3 years. First, EMT-Is must complete a 36-hour traditional refresher course or, if allowed by the state, 36 hours worth of continuing education in the topics of airway, breathing and cardiology, obstetrics and pediatrics, medical emergencies and trauma. In addition, 36 more hours of training in EMS-related topics must be completed, and proof of CPR certification needs to be presented.

Paramedic Refresher Course

The NREMT requires paramedics seeking recertification to take 72 hours of continuing education. This total includes a 48-hour state-approved refresher course, or 48 hours of continuing education if allowed by the state, along with 24 additional hours of EMS-related training, CPR certification and skills verification. Because paramedic is the highest level in pre-hospital care and paramedics typically perform more invasive procedures, training is far more extensive than with first responders and EMTs. Mandatory topics in the refresher course include medical emergencies, obstetrics and pediatrics, trauma, cardiology, airway and breathing. Candidates must also currently be working in an intensive care setting.


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