Emergency medical professionals must be able to stay calm in stressful situations and possess strong analytical skills in order to assess patient conditions and quickly provide the appropriate pre-hospital care. EMTs must be familiar with medical terminology, human anatomy and emergency medical procedures.
Training is completed in three progressive levels: EMT-Basic, EMT-Intermediate and EMT-Paramedic. Mandatory for licensure and certification, formal education programs are progressive in nature and require students to pass a practical and a written exam given by either the NREMT or the state certifying agency before becoming certified at each level. All levels include training in the use and maintenance of medical equipment as well as the practical application of emergency medical procedures. Training is commonly available online or as a hybrid program, and a high school diploma and CPR certification are often required for admission.
Emergency medical training at this level prepares aspiring EMTs to provide pre-hospital care and basic life support services in a variety of situations. Through both classroom instruction and hands-on training, EMT-Basic programs focus on the professional practices and techniques used to effectively treat patients, transport them safely to a medical facility and communicate with all levels of emergency medical personnel. Hands-on experiences typically include skill labs that introduce students to real-life scenarios as well as field experiences gained through hospital and ambulance rotations. Upon completion of an accredited EMT-Basic training program, students must pass the basic NREMT and state certification exams.
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Training for the EMT-Intermediate designation builds upon the skills learned during an EMT-Basic program and typically requires a minimum of 200 hours of laboratory simulations, classroom instruction and practical skill labs. Students must also complete 200 hours of clinical rotations. Students gain an understanding of advanced life support procedures and learn how to administer intravenous fluids and use advanced airway devices. Students also become familiar with some medications, such as those used to treat allergic reactions, diabetic emergencies and shock symptoms. To demonstrate knowledge learned and gain employment at this level, graduates must take the NREMT exam upon completion of training.
The EMT-Paramedic certification is the most advanced training level offered within the field of emergency medical services. Requiring extensive coursework and many hours of clinical experiences, paramedic training typically takes two years to complete. Paramedic programs commonly result in an associate degree and are most often offered by community colleges and technical schools. In addition to developing advanced medical skills for emergency situations, students are required to complete formal coursework in human anatomy and physiology. EMT-Paramedic programs prepare individuals to take and pass the national certification exam administered by the NREMT.
Licenses and Certifications
Despite some qualifications that vary from state to state, all 50 states require emergency medical personnel to meet licensure requirements and pass certification exams. Certification as an EMT is typically good for two or three years. Recertification is contingent upon renewed background checks, refresher courses and continuing education credits. Continuing education requirements can be completed in a variety of settings, including online classes, workshops, seminars and formal college courses.
There are three different levels of EMT certification, and formal education programs offer classroom and hands-on training for all of them. Students can prepare to become certified EMT-Basics, EMT-Intermediates or EMT-Paramedics.