EMT vs Paramedic: Whenever a medical emergency arises, a team of medical emergency professionals is the first to reach the spot. This usually happens when there is a 911 call. Whether it is an accident, a fire breakout, or a personal emergency, these professionals play a key role in ensuring that the patient(s) stay safe. Their swift action can make all the difference between life and death. Gone are the days when an ambulance crew was considered nothing more than drivers. An ambulance crew consists of an emergency medical services team compromising of both EMTs and paramedics and they are all certified healthcare professionals.
It is this team that tends the injured or ill in case of an emergency. Duties of an EMT usually includes administration of CPR, oxygen, and glucose, while paramedics can carry out comparatively complex duties like administering drugs, inserting IV lines, applying pacemakers, etc. Though both these professionals offer emergency aid, their job and duties are quite different. In this article, we will provide a detailed EMT vs paramedic comparison for better understanding (1):
EMT – EMTs are the most common emergency healthcare professionals. They tend to patients at a very basic level. They are usually called to attend patients in case of a traumatic emergency such as an accident or medical emergency such as a heart attack. As basic emergency responders, they identify the issues that need immediate attention, like the degree of burns/injuries, heart condition, etc. Post this, they move the patient to an ambulance. They, then, let the hospital know about the patient count and details of their condition. EMTs also monitor the patient’s condition during the transfer period and ensure that they get the necessary care. EMTs are usually dispatched according to 911 calls and they work with other first responders like police and firefighters (2).
Paramedics – Paramedics are EMTs with advanced training and skill to deal with patients who are most vulnerable. Paramedics are trained to offer advanced life support similar to that provided in the emergency medical room to any critical patient in the pre-hospital environment. Due to their advanced training, they have a better knowledge of different essential subjects like cardiology, physiology, medication, medical procedures, etc. This they use for providing critical care to patients who need them. They respond to 911 calls (3).
While comparing EMT vs paramedic, the most important aspect is their job responsibility.
EMT – The duties of an EMT begins with responding to medical emergency calls made at 911. After reaching the site, an EMT must access the condition of the patient(s). Once this has been done, the EMT must offer immediate care as necessary like CPR, glucose administration, bandaging wounds, etc. The EMT must also take steps to control external bleeding if any. The patient should, then, be moved to the ambulance with assistance of the EMT. The EMT must also report to the hospital and let them know details such as patient count, patient condition, arrival time, etc. An EMT should also use backboards and other necessary restraints to ensure the patient is safe and still while in the ambulance. It is the duty of an EMT to prevent further injury or shock to the patient and help him/her stabilize during transfer to the hospital. An EMT may also be required to move patients from one facility to another. It is the duty of an EMT to maintain patient records.
Paramedics – As a paramedic, a candidate’s primary duty is to identify critical patients and establish what type of medical care they need. A paramedic should also stabilize the patient as he/she is transported to a hospital. The paramedic should bandage wounds and keep injured areas elevated to prevent further bleeding. These, however, are only the basic duties of a paramedic. A paramedic is charged with many more complex duties such as assisting in baby delivery in cases of emergency, perform tracheotomy or similar operations to create airways if the patient is unable to breathe normally, using IV injections or lines to administer medication, performing needle decompression to treat collapsed lungs, inserting pacemakers to manage heart arrhythmias, offering breathing support with ventilation devices, etc. A paramedic should also maintain patient records (4).
There is some difference between EMT and paramedic as far as their work environment is concerned.
EMT – Commonly EMTs work in ambulances, government, public and private hospitals, police, fire service, and other government departments. The scope of work of a paramedic is quite limited.
Paramedics – Paramedics work along with EMTs in an ambulance. Though they work together, the number of paramedics in an ambulance is lesser than EMTs. Paramedics are also employed in air ambulances that fly patients between different locations and in fire services as well. Paramedics usually find employment at Emergency Medical Services (EMS).
Another important difference is the educational qualification required for the respective position.
EMT – A candidate willing to become an EMT needs complete at least a GED or a high school diploma. Further education is not essential. Candidates must obtain an EMT training certificate by passing the NREMT test. For this, candidates must complete 150 hours of course work at any vocational or community school or state university. EMTs must also have CPR certification.
Paramedics – Paramedics are also EMTs, but with the highest level of certification. Apart from complete basic and advanced EMT training, paramedics are also required to take up additional studies like physiology, cardiology, etc. Candidates may choose to gather a first-hand experience by working for a couple of years as an EMT followed by an advanced training of 1,200 – 1,800 hours to become a paramedic. Prospective paramedics usually have to take 2-year college programs, followed by the NPC exam and state licensing examination.
Certification and license
EMT – Any candidate willing to become an EMT should be 18 years old or more and must possess a valid driver’s license. EMTs must obtain the NREMT certification that is recognized by most states as the standard. That apart, an EMT must also obtain a CPR certification offered by organizations like the American Heart Association or American Red Cross. On successful qualification, an EMT becomes eligible for practice.
Paramedics – Like EMTs, paramedics, too, need to be at least 18 years of age and be a high school graduate. They must also possess a CPR certification and a driver’s license. To become certified as a paramedic, a candidate must pass the NREMT exam. However, obtaining the certification doesn’t ensure permission to practice. In order to practice, a certified paramedic must obtain a state license where he/she wants to practice. Some states grant license based on NREMT certification, but others require the candidate to pass state-run exams for licensing (5).
EMT – All practicing EMTs must renew their certificates every two years. To do this, they must either complete continuing education or take the cognitive examination. To recertify, the candidate must complete at least 40 hours of credits.
Paramedics – Quite similar to EMTs, paramedics, too, must recertify every two years. This can be done by completing continuing education or passing the cognitive examination. However, unlike EMTs, paramedics need to obtain at least 60 hours of credits for recertification.
By this EMT vs paramedic comparison, it is quite clear that there are certain similarities between the two job roles. However, the differences are quite stark and mustn’t be ignored by anyone willing to take up EMT or paramedics as a career option. While EMTs require lesser education and have lesser responsibilities than paramedics, they form the basis of emergency medical services. However, their work scope is quite limited compared to that of paramedics.