How To Become A Paramedic:
Are you looking for a career opportunity that is both rewarding and satisfying? Well then, you could consider becoming a paramedic. Although this is a very demanding career, don’t be alarmed. Being a paramedic can indeed interfere with your social relationships and family commitments, but you will be satisfied with your job. Paramedics play a very important role in society; they stand between life and death. Paramedics help people when they are most vulnerable, and thus, make a big difference.
The role of a paramedic in the healthcare industry is ever-evolving with paramedics now involved in public health, emergency, urgent, and primary care, commissioning, and a lot more. As such, the need for qualified paramedics is now more than ever and it can be your path to career success.
Job description and key responsibilities of a paramedic
Before you think of taking up this career, you must know what the job entails. Consider both the pros and cons of the profession before you dig deeper to know how to become a paramedic. Your work will generally involve pre-hospital procedures. The key responsibilities of a paramedic usually include:
- Quickly attending public emergency calls whenever required.
- Treatment of all types of medical issues, from cardiac arrests to traumatic injuries, and across all age groups according to the specific treatment protocols.
- Managing all types of people, especially those that are anxious, intoxicated, or high.
- Helping in the transportation of patients to hospitals if further treatment is necessary.
- Ensuring safe, thorough, and detailed handovers to the hospital.
- Ability to drive different types of vehicles according to blue lights standards.
- Documentation of all treatments administered to the patients in a legally approved manner.
- Coordination with all types of emergency service specialists such as firemen, police, army, etc. in case of major incidents.
- Keeping a track of all drugs and equipment allotted to them to ensure they are in date and fit for use.
- Carrying out special checks to ensure effective healthcare governance.
- Following competency guidelines and taking care of professional development by enrolling for constant refresher training.
Essential qualities and skills of a paramedic
However, enticing the paramedic job may seem, being a paramedic isn’t a suitable career prospect for everyone. To be a paramedic, one must possess several essential qualities and skills as we outline below:
Communication skills –
This is a primary skill necessary for anyone willing to become a paramedic. Though you do not need communication skills to impress anyone, you need it for something more important. The primary objective of a paramedic is to acquire information from patients who are acutely sick and this needs appropriate communication skills.
That’s not all! As a paramedic, you will also need to handle worried relatives, nagging bystanders, and professional hospital staff. So, the ability to communicate appropriately with all types of people is necessary.
Decision-making skills –
The decisions you make can be the difference between life and death. A single slip and a patient may lose his/her life. So, you have to be quick at decision-making (and good at it too). Your job as a paramedic will often require you to make tough calls under duress.
As a paramedic, you will often come across situations that can disturb your composure. However, you will have to be equanimous even when situations are pressing. A paramedic needs to keep all distractions at bay to be able to work quickly and efficiently.
Working as a paramedic can sometimes get difficult when you have to deal with prying bystanders, edgy family members, and uncooperative patients. You cannot, however, lose your head. A paramedic needs to patient and professional at all times.
Mentally strong –
When attending to injured patients, you will come across gory scenes on a routine basis. This is part and parcel of a paramedic’s job. However, you have to be unflinching at the sight to be able to carry out your duties. As such, anyone willing to become a paramedic should be mentally strong.
A paramedic forms the vital connection between the patient and the doctors. As such, a paramedic must be very attentive to details. How quickly and efficiently you pick up details can make it easier for you as well as the doctors to start the treatment process.
Physical fitness –
The work of a paramedic is not only full of responsibilities, it physically taxing as well. You have to move around a lot, sometimes lift the patient several stairs or to high ground, etc. You should be physically fit to be able to handle everything easily.
Paramedics have to take care of many aspects while performing their job. That is why you must multitask. Like while you are attending to a person, try to figure out what you should do next.
While this isn’t an essential skill, yet diplomacy may make things easier for you. This is because many a time patients, as well as their relatives, fail to comprehend what’s best for them. Using a bit of diplomacy can help manage things easily.
Steps to become a paramedic
If you feel that the life of a paramedic is what interests you, then it is time to get to know how to become a paramedic. Taking up paramedics as your career will require you to complete the following steps:
Step 1 – Meet the eligibility criteria
Before you start to become a paramedic, you have to meet certain criteria. All prospective paramedics must be 18 years old or more and must have at least a high school diploma degree or GED. They will also need to pass a physical examination as well. Candidates also need to be screened for Hepatitis B and tuberculosis. Most states also require a check for criminal activity.
Step 2 – Complete basic training
The basic paramedic training to become a paramedic will take you 6-24 months, based on the paramedic school you enroll in. Students can enroll at community colleges as well as technical institutes that offer the course. The basic training course usually involves coursework of 120 – 150 hours. During the course, candidates will be taught how to manage emergencies and carry outpatient assessments. Students are also given a first-hand experience of different field equipment.
Step 3 – Pass a test
Once the basic training is over, students can sit for the examination to earn their certification. While many states require the student to sit for the national level licensing exam, other states have state-organized exams for certification. These exams are conducted by the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians and contain tests for both psychomotor and cognitive skills. The questions are tailor-made according to student response.
Students get three opportunities to crack the exams. However, they have to wait at least 15 days for the next attempt. If a candidate fails to pass even after three attempts, remedial training is usually recommended. Successful professionals must renew their certification every two years.
Step 4 – Complete advanced training
This is an optional training course for candidates interested in improving their career opportunities. Candidates usually have to complete coursework worth 300 hours during which they receive further training on using different medications, IVs, EKGs, complex airway devices, etc.
Step 5 – Enroll in a 2-year degree course
A candidate may also opt to enroll for a 2-year degree program at a college where coursework will include physiology and anatomy, advanced life support, etc. This is practiced first hand at ambulances and hospitals.
Completing paramedic course online
Candidates willing to pursue a career in paramedics can do so the traditional way or by joining an online course. Online courses are a great choice for those who are already working and find it difficult to attend classrooms. Many of the popular colleges offer online courses where the theoretical training can be done online and the practical training is obtained under the supervision of an experienced and expert paramedic in a medical environment. Pursuing an online course has many benefits like:
- You can work and learn at the same time. You do not have to let go of your dream even if you have to support yourself and your family.
- You can have flexibility regarding the class slots. This way, you can learn when you have enough free time and there is no disturbance.
- You have to pay less as tuition fees as online courses cost less than traditional learning.
Schools that offer paramedic courses
If you want to enroll yourself at a traditional course, you can apply to these top schools that offer paramedic training:
One of the top colleges offering paramedic courses is the Broward College in Florida. The curriculum is focused on practical training so that prospective paramedics have the best hands-on experience. A student can enroll for any of the three courses offered by the college – Certificate in Paramedic, Diploma in EMT, and Associate in EMT.
One of the leading colleges in Wisconsin, the Fox Valley Technical College also focuses on a practical approach. It has three courses on offer – Diploma in EMT, Certificate in EMT – Advanced, Diploma in EMT – Paramedic.
This university in New York is known for its quality teachers, some of whom are Nobel Laureates too. It offers an EMT basic – paramedic course that trains students in various aspects of advanced cardiac support, advanced pediatric support, trauma life support, and more.
Paramedic training and course cost
Alongside knowing how to become a paramedic, it is necessary that you understand the costs involved. Paramedic course and training cost is quite different from one state to another, from one university to another, and from one degree to another. There are many factors that decide the paramedic course cost. This includes:
The type of institution –
Course fees depend on the type of institution that you enroll in. Public colleges have lower fees than community colleges. Courses at the universities, on the other hand, cost quite similar to the community colleges. Online courses are comparatively less costly.
The extent of the course –
Paramedic courses vary in duration. A certificate course is shorter than a paramedic associate degree or a bachelor’s degree. Hence, the course cost is much lower. Certificate courses also vary in duration, with six months being the shortest.
The fees that you have to pay as an in-state student is lesser than what you have to pay as an out-of-state student.
Considering all these facts, the typical paramedic cost will be anywhere between $1000 and $10,000, and sometimes, even more. The tuition fees usually include uniforms, textbooks, certificates, etc. However, this may vary. If textbooks are not included, you can expect to pay around $750 – $1300 for the same. Candidates may have to additionally pay for recertification exams, refresher course, etc.
How to get yourself employed?
Completing paramedic training and passing the exam isn’t enough to get yourself employed as a paramedic. You will have to put some effort to gain employment. The best time to do so is when you are training. While training to be a paramedic, you will have numerous placements to gain the first-hand experience. Start networking during this time and prove your worth to your seniors. Reference can go a long way in helping you secure a job as a paramedic after training and licensing.
You can also look for openings for apprentices and trainees and join the same. The competition here is usually quite tough and you have to prove yourself to be the best. Many recruiters also prefer candidates with some experience as a paramedic. To be eligible for such openings, you can volunteer your services for a while at any recognized healthcare facility like ambulance service, an old age home, etc. You will have the experience that will give you an edge.
A career as a paramedic is quite challenging, but the fruits of your labor are too sweet. As a paramedic, you can help people in their most vulnerable moments and ensure their safety and health. If you think that a career in paramedics is what you are made for, do not hesitate to take the call.