How to become an EMT
Emergency medical services, or EMS, is a vital system in our communities and plays an integral role in our health and safety. A career in the field of EMS is both humbling and engaging. EMT’s, or emergency medical technicians, are trained and skilled practitioners. Many EMT’s, like myself, utilize their training and experience to perform specific jobs. We would like to help mitigate some confusion that may occur when someone is considering how to become an EMT.
What does an EMT do?
To better understand the training involved in how to become an EMT, we need to look at what an EMT does. The roles of an emergency medical technician can be broad and include:
- Airway management including “assisted breathing”
- Bleeding control and shock management
- Intravenous (IV) access
- Fracture splinting
- Obtain vital signs
- Mass-casualty triage
- Specialty rescue such as high angle, confined space and dive
- Emergency vehicle, including ambulance and fire apparatus, operation
Like with many healthcare specialties, each state has its own rules and regulations that spell out exactly what is and is not allowed to be performed by a specific role or title. These regulations are known as a Scope of Practice. While looking into how to become an EMT, finding your state’s scope of practice can help guide your searches.
This sounds interesting to me, but how do I get there?
Becoming an EMT traditionally follows a path: education, testing and certification. This process repeats when higher levels of training are reached. The current national certification levels for emergency medical technicians are: Emergency Medical Responder, Emergency Medical Technician, Emergency Medical Technician Advanced, and Paramedic. Each level of training builds on the knowledge gained previously and brings specialized skills and care to the patients served.
Formal emergency medical technician training is typically held in community colleges, however more and more states are allowing high school students to attend as well. Initial, or “basic” training is generally 40 hours in length. Many programs hold classes at night or “off hours” that can allow full time employment while obtaining EMT training.
After completing a specialized training program, students are then able to test for the respective certification. Testing contains two parts: knowledge, or a written test, and a skills evaluation. The written exam is computer based and confirms the student received the appropriate education. The skills evaluation is a hands-on evaluation of how well the student can perform the tasks required of an EMT.
Once the student has completed the required education and passed all testing, they then can apply for certification as an EMT. Many states honor the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians. The Registry is the national organization for EMT certification and testing.
I got my certification, but now what do I need to become an EMT?
Generally, the best advice you can find about an industry is from just that, the industry. Local EMS agencies, fire departments and the EMT training program can provide the most accurate information for your region. It may take a few attempts to “get into” the industry after becoming an EMT, however the largest step is completing the process to become an EMT.