What is Paramedicine?
By Bruce Evans, Fire Chief
There is a national shortage of paramedics in the United States. The baby boomers and aging American population are entering a time when things start to go wrong and it is placing a larger demand on public safety agencies to hire paramedics.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the field to grow 23.1 percent between 2012 and 2022, adding 55,300 more jobs nationally.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the field to grow 23.1 percent between 2012 and 2022, adding 55,300 more jobs nationally. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) oversees the National Standard Curricula and has created a common framework for emergency medical service (EMS) education for emergency medical responders, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), EMT intermediates and paramedics; however, consistency across states has not yet been achieved. The majority of states require National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) initial certification at both the EMT and paramedic levels. This means being prepared to take a national test in a computerized testing center.
To get started you must first become an EMT. EMT courses are offered at colleges, universities, EMS and fire agencies, private businesses and hospitals. Classes range from 130 to 160 hours with a rotation in an emergency room and a ride-a-long at an EMS agency. EMTs conduct basic life support skills such as treating wounds, performing CPR, delivering babies, conducting patient assessments, paramedicine, administering oxygen and assisting respirations. Most people fine tune their EMT skills for a year or more before advancing to paramedic school. Often quality training centers require experience as an EMT before allowing a person into paramedic training.
Being a paramedic is a very demanding career. The paramedic is responsible for the medicine and is the most senior trained member on the crew. A person entering the profession quickly finds out that they have to be a great problem solver, a detective and a multi-tasker. A paramedic is the highest level of EMT certification. Paramedics are trained and certified, or in some states licensed, to perform advanced life support procedures that include administering intravenous (IV) fluids, medications, interpreting heart rhythms and placing advanced airways in patients who are having difficulty or who are not breathing. A paramedic also performs all the skills of an EMT.
The Bureau of Labor reports the median annual salary for EMTs and paramedics was $31,270 in 2013. The best-paid 10 percent in the profession made approximately $54,710, while the lowest-earning 10 percent made approximately $20,420. The best-compensated paramedics and EMTs work in the metropolitan areas of Tacoma, Washington; Seattle; and Fairbanks, Alaska. The median national average wage for EMTs/paramedics is approximately $12.54 per hour. However, if they become fire-based EMTs or paramedics it increases to $26.82 per hour. Shifts are commonly 24 or 48 hours in the fire service and 8, 10, 12 or 24 hours in the private ambulance industry. There are opportunities to work in a variety of setting as a paramedic. For those who do not choose a long-term career in EMS often the experience is invaluable and is seen as a plus when seeking training or education in other health care professions.
Before taking the leap you must understand that only about 15 percent of emergency calls are truly life-threatening. Paramedics and EMTs are frequently called to an “emergency” that really is that person’s emergency and not seen as emergency by the health care system. It is the witness of human condition and an opportunity to solve a problem for someone. Often it is to reassure or simply provide comfort and care. No call is ever the same and the situations are always dynamic. That is why being an EMT or paramedic is considered a noble profession.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, EMTs and Paramedics, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/emts-and-paramedics.htm (visited March 23, 2015). Publish Date: Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Bruce Evans is Fire Chief of the Upper Pine River Fire Protection District in Bayfield, CO. Chief Evans is a board member with the National Association of EMTs and completed his Master's Degree in Public Administration at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Evans has taught fire and EMS topics over 25 years at the National Fire Academy, College of Southern Nevada and Pueblo Community College in Durango, CO.