Arriving at a moment's notice and always ready to serve, many consider first responders to be modern-day heroes. As an EMS provider, you play a critical role on the first response team, often working in cooperation with medical professionals, police officers, and firefighters to assist individuals who are ill, injured, or in distress. It can be an incredibly rewarding profession filled with powerful moments, but it's important to understand life as a paramedic before you start down this career path.
What is a Paramedic?
Paramedics are healthcare professionals who often respond in emergency situations and provide individuals with life-saving care until they can receive treatment from a practicing doctor or nurse. Paramedics receive extensive training and can operate both basic and advanced equipment on ambulances to keep patients stable while being transported to a hospital.
Degree and Certification Requirements
Those interested in pursuing a career as a paramedic should be aware of the degree and certification requirements, which can vary by state.
According to Indeed, these are the general educational and training requirements to become a paramedic:
- Complete EMT training, which can include up to 1,800 hours of job training. There are various levels, including basic EMT training, intermediate EMT training, and paramedic training. Training to become a paramedic is more extensive and requires the highest level of training.
- Take the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians Exam to become certified.
- Take a state licensing exam, if it is required by the state where you intend to work.
- Complete continuing education and renewal courses to maintain your license.
A paramedicine bachelor's degree program is optional, but it is a valuable investment for aspiring paramedics who want to provide their patients with advanced, personalized care. Throughout the degree program, you will cover specialized topics such as pharmacology, trauma management, public health, and medical terminology, giving you the high-level understanding of the role of a healthcare professional as well as the actionable skills of an emergency responder.
Job Outlook and Experience
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment levels for paramedics are expected to increase by five percent between 2022 and 2032, which is faster than the average for all occupations. On average, the BLS predicts that there will be more than 18,000 openings for paramedics each year over the course of the next decade.
Hospitals and Work Environment
Most paramedics will work with an ambulance service or as part of a hospital system to provide patients with immediate care during medical emergencies. Paramedics also may find specialized positions available in other work environments, such as onboard cruise ships or at facilities that plan large-scale events.
What Does a Paramedic Do?
Paramedics are trained to provide emergency medical care and help transport patients to hospitals to receive ongoing care for their illness or injuries. The daily responsibilities of a paramedic vary based on the place of employment, as well as the emergencies that occur throughout the day, making this an invigorating and rewarding career — particularly for those passionate about helping others.
Duties and Responsibilities
The paramedic job role requires an individual to always remain alert and aware because the decisions they make could have a lasting impact on the patient. Paramedics often work under the supervision of a doctor or alongside a medical team of nurses, doctors, and other care providers.
According to Indeed, the primary duties and responsibilities of a paramedic include:
- Assessing the patient as quickly as possible to determine the best course of treatment.
- Providing emergency medical care, such as performing CPR, using a defibrillator, or administering IV medication.
- Transporting patients to the hospital as quickly and safely as possible.
- Providing doctors, nurses, and other members of the care team with relevant information about the patient's status upon arrival.
- Documenting care provided and providing that information to the hospital.
Most paramedic positions are full-time positions of 40 hours or more per week. However, paramedics do not typically work the traditional 8-hour shift. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, paramedics may be required to work 12-, 18-, or 24-hour shifts, depending on their employer. Paramedic shifts are not only scheduled during the day, but also on nights, weekends, and holidays.
The primary role of a paramedic is to assist individuals during an emergency. The care required during an emergency response can vary significantly depending on the circumstances, requiring a paramedic to be agile, alert, and composed. In addition, paramedics must have a solid understanding of pathology, pharmacology, medical terminology, and emergency treatment options, so they can quickly assess a patient and begin administering life-saving care.
Maintenance and Chores
While it may not sound as exciting as saving a patient's life, paramedics also are responsible for routine maintenance and daily chores. When not being used to transport patients to hospitals, ambulances need to be properly cleaned and maintained. Paramedics are responsible for performing ambulance inspections and ensuring that all ambulances are adequately equipped with the necessary supplies, so that everything is available in the event of an emergency.
Common Questions for Paramedics
By taking the lead during emergency situations and acting as a calming presence while providing critical care, paramedics are true superheroes. Although working as a paramedic may sound exciting and alluring, prospective students should take some time to evaluate the lifestyle of a paramedic and determine if it is the right fit for them, both personally and professionally.
These are some of the most frequently asked questions about the paramedic job role:
Is it a Paid or Volunteer Position?
Working as a paramedic is a paid position, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics noting a median annual salary of approximately $39,000. The BLS also notes that 39 percent of all employed paramedics work for ambulance services.
In some communities, there may be opportunities to serve as an auxiliary EMT provider or as a volunteer member of an emergency response team. These individuals, however, are limited in the type of care that they can provide. Volunteer opportunities are more common in rural areas, where there are fewer residents to serve and emergency situations occurring less frequently. The type of training and certificate required for these volunteer positions will vary based on the location.
What is the Time Commitment?
agencies, or hospital emergency rooms. The average paramedic works at least 40 hours per week, with many working more than that during an average week.
Within a full-time position, the shifts may vary based on the employer. Some paramedics will work several 12-hour shifts per week, while others may complete a 24-hour shift every few days. It is important for prospective paramedics to consider the shifts required by the job before they accept it, to determine if those schedules are right for their lifestyle.
What are the Benefits and Perks?
In terms of an employment package, the benefits and perks of the position will vary based on location and employer. However, most paramedics find that they receive healthcare, paid time off, and retirement options as part of their employment package.
However, the perks of the job extend beyond the compensation package. Some of the benefits that come along with being a paramedic include:
- Developing an advanced understanding of emergency medical care.
- Knowing that you are providing patients with critical, life-saving care.
- Working a non-traditional schedule that may afford you more flexibility in your personal life.
Is there a Work-Life Balance?
The sheer responsibility of working as a paramedic can be mentally and physically taxing, which is why many prospective students want to know if paramedics are able to achieve work-life balance.
Many paramedics can effectively balance their professional and personal responsibilities, but it does require these emergency care providers to be intentional about their approach to work-life balance.
Paramedics can achieve a greater sense of work-life balance by:
- Being mindful of the amount of overtime that they accept in a week.
- Prioritizing self-care on the days that they are not working, to give both their mind and body a break.
- Knowing that it's okay to say no if an opportunity for overtime arises.
- Creating a support system that includes friends, family members, and colleagues to help them better manage the emotional and physical toll of the job.
Paramedics often find their work to be rewarding, as they know they play an important role during an emergency response. The best paramedics, however, know that they deserve to take care of themselves as well. This helps to prevent burnout and improve patient care during their shifts.
Earn Your Degree in Paramedicine at Lindenwood University
At Lindenwood University, we offer an online bachelor's degree in paramedicine that provides students with a well-rounded foundation in emergency medical care. This degree program features a multidisciplinary curriculum that emphasizes both pathophysiology and human development, allowing students to be fully prepared for a career as an emergency healthcare professional.
Request more information about our online bachelor's degree in paramedicine today.