Becoming a volunteer EMT, or emergency medical technician is a volunteer opportunity unlike any other.
This is not an un-skilled volunteer role. Just like career EMTs, volunteer EMTs must first complete a formal professional EMT training, testing and certification program.
But once the training, testing and certification is complete, volunteer EMTs get to be on the front lines, saving lives.
While local volunteer posts nearly always exist, it is often also possible to take these advanced EMT volunteer skills “on the road,” so to speak, serving nationally or internationally during crises or in less-developed countries.
In this article, learn how to become a volunteer EMT step by step.
Basic Requirements for Becoming a Volunteer EMT
EMT volunteers need to be able to meet some basic requirements before being considered.
Here is an overview of general requirements most volunteer programs will specify.
– Be 18 years of age or older.
– Have at least a high school diploma, GED, or higher.
– Have good color vision (with or without corrective lenses).
– Have adequate physical strength to the job requirements.
– Be in good physical health.
– Be in good mental and emotional health.
– Complete EMT training and receive EMS certification.
What Does EMT Training Include?
EMT training programs can vary based on the requirements in each local area, but most will take between six and 12 months to complete.
The training typically includes learning the following skills:
– How to perform CPR.
– How to give basic first aid.
– How to identify medical conditions.
– How to administer aid for those medical conditions.
– How to operate an ambulance and its equipment.
– How to coordinate with other emergency response personnel.
A typical EMT training program will include both classroom time and field work, including shadowing trained EMT professionals and demonstrating skills mastery in clinical settings.
What Levels of EMT Training Are Available?
There are different levels of EMT training based on what the volunteer role may require. Common levels of EMT training include these:
– First responder. This is the most basic and typically requires about 40 hours of classroom and hands-on training.
– EMT Basic. This is a ground-level training as an entry into EMT work. It usually comprises about 110 hours of training in the classroom and in the field.
– EMT Intermediate. This higher level training may span anywhere from 200 to 400 hours and typically includes extensive classroom and field training.
– Paramedic (EMT Advanced). Paramedics are expected to complete at least 1,000 hours of training in the classroom as well as in the field.
How to Enroll in EMT Training
Volunteer EMT experience not only looks great on a job application but it can also be a way to decide if that is a potential future career path.
Another one of the particular perks about deciding to become an EMT volunteer is that it is often possible to get the training free of charge. In this case, the volunteer can receive value in kind with the future volunteer service.
Enrolling in EMT training starts with identifying the requirements of the volunteer EMT position that is of interest. Different programs often have different training and certification requirements based on what is legally required in different local areas.
The volunteer organization is a great resource for finding qualifying training programs. Then the applicants will simply need to follow the guidelines for enrolling in the desired program.
As a general guideline, enrolling in an EMT training program may require any or all of the following:
– Background check (civil, criminal, employment).
– Proof of pre-qualifying education.
– Drug testing.
– Reference checks.
How Does the EMT Certification Process Work?
Regardless of whether the ultimate goal is to become a volunteer or obtain paid employment, certification to become an EMT requires passing a test administered by the National Registry of Emergency Medication Technicians (NREMT).
The certification process typically involves two separate parts: a cognitive exam and a psycho-motor exam.
Cognitive exam (online computer aided test)
The cognitive exam takes approximately two hours and measures the applicant’s knowledge of EMS care over seven major categories. The test is administered online via computer through the NREMT website.
Psychomotor exam (in person test)
The psychomotor exam is administered in person, typically through the state EMS office. This exam evaluates the candidate’s performance in several aspects of hands-on patient care.
After passing both the cognitive and psychomotor tests, the applicant can then be certified as an EMT for a period of 12 months.
After that 12-month period is up, it will then be necessary to recertify. Recertification currently requires an additional 20 hours of continuing education or by taking another online exam.
Frequently Asked Questions about Volunteer EMTs
It is normal to have questions about how to become a volunteer EMT. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions new volunteer EMT candidates often have.
Do Volunteer EMTs get paid?
Volunteer EMTs typically do not get paid. Some organizations may reimburse their volunteers for necessary expenses incurred during the course of a volunteer shift.
Each organization sets its own policies for how expense reimbursement may be offered.
How do you become a volunteer EMT
Following the process outlined earlier here is the best method of becoming a volunteer EMT.
How many hours do I have to work as a volunteer EMT?
Each volunteer organization will set their own minimum requirements for volunteer EMT shifts and also what is required of their active volunteer EMT corps when on duty.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the work schedule for an EMT may look different depending on the type of emergency response work being done.
In some cases, it may mean mobilizing only in the event of a national weather or other disaster, while in other cases it may mean committing to a weekly shift schedule.
Many EMTs work in shifts ranging from 12 to 24 hours. During a shift a volunteer EMT may need to remain “on call” and available, whether or not there is the need for their services. Being on a shift doesn’t necessarily mean doing any work but it can mean being available if work needs to be done.
This in turn may require remaining reachable by phone, abstaining from alcoholic beverages at social functions while on a shift or rearranging personal or professional schedules to be able to respond to a call if it comes in.
What Is it Like to be a Volunteer EMT?
Serving as a volunteer EMT can be a very rewarding choice. There is a reason the process of becoming educated and trained, tested and certified is rigorous. EMT personnel are frequently involved in literal life or death situations and their actions may make the difference between whether someone lives or dies.
When on a shift, if a call comes in, the situation is likely to get hectic quickly. Multiple personnel from different community sectors may be involved, including police, firefighters, hospital staff and EMTs. It may be necessary to lift heavy objects (including patients), navigate to perform emergency medical procedures in very close quarters and communicate with people experiencing extreme emotional upheaval.
This isn’t a volunteer opportunity that will suit everybody. But for volunteers with the right training and temperament, it can become one of the most rewarding experiences life has to offer.