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Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)


Description

Ambulance attendants are perhaps best known to us by their vehicles: loud, large vans careering through city streets and down rural roads at all times of the day and night, all across the country, rushing towards danger and distress in an effort to save lives. There are, in fact, a number of different people with varying skills working inside those ambulances, but "ambulance attendant" is the general term we use when talking about these multi-talented heroes.

Each area has its own way of dividing up the work to be done by ambulance attendants, as different levels of attendants are trained and responsible for different things. While these levels may have varying names across the nation, the fundamentals behind all paramedics are the same: These workers are the extension of the hospital, trained in different areas, including intravenous treatment, using ventilation and circulation equipment, delivering babies, shock treatment, and how to administer medication. They are trained to react quickly, to unexpected and unique situations, including transport by air, water or land. They need to be able to make quick decisions, and clinical judgments when it comes to saving lives and treating injuries. Emergency physicians research, monitor and advise ambulance attendants, in order to constantly improve the services provided by this special branch of health care.

Along with direct patient interaction, ambulance attendants are also required to write reports about the emergency situations they attended, documenting the actions and procedures they undertook. They also maintain their ambulances, equipment, and supplies.

Ambulance attendants are brave, strong people, who react well under intense pressure, and have great memories when it comes to little details, like which drugs do what in which amounts, and how to help babies who've suffered cardiac arrest. They are faced with possible injury from lifting patients and hearing loss from the sirens. Ambulance attendants are also exposed to violence from drug overdose victims and mentally ill patients, as well as disease; many paramedics wear bullet-proof vests, and all paramedics wear latex gloves to protect themselves from hepatitis and HIV.
It takes a special kind of person to take on a role such as this, one that is driven by adrenaline as well as compassion.
 
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  Average Earnings  
Lowest 10% of Earners:
$15,530
 
Median Salary:
$24,030
 
Highest 10% of Earners:
$41,980

  Interests and Skills  
As an ambulance attendant, you are quick-thinking and confident in your skills and abilities. You work well in a team as a trustworthy co-worker who listens and takes advice and criticism from your colleagues. You are able to function on little sleep, as well as under pressure in unexpected situations. You love adventure, as well as risk, and have a strong interest and desire in helping others in times of crisis. You are sensitive, compassionate and patient--crucial skills to possess as you work with the mentally ill, the elderly and children on a daily basis. You are interested in health care and treatments for trauma, have a strong stomach when it comes to blood and maintain a high level of physical fitness.
 

  Typical Tasks  
  • Assess extent of injuries or illness of trauma victims
  • Recognize respiratory disease, stress, overdose, poisoning
  • Administer appropriate pre-hospital emergency care, including CPR, splints and bandaging
  • Start up intravenous treatment
  • Decide on medications and administer them appropriately
  • Transport patients to hospital or health center by air, land or water
  • Complete report on emergency and resulting care
  • Look after the ambulance and equipment
  • Re-certify when needed
  • Ambulance attendants work long shifts, often for 24 hours at a time. They can be scheduled for evenings, weekends, and holidays, and work rain, snow, or shine. They work in teams of at least two; there may be more than that depending on where they are working, and the time of year (holidays are known for accidents, so there may be more ambulance attendants on the job during that time). Ambulance attendants are required to put themselves at risk when saving others: exposure to dangerous situations is all part of a day's work. Ambulance attendants encounter many types of people with differing needs and abilities, and ambulance attendants work hard each day to help them all.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Ambulance attendants work both indoors and outdoors, at the site of the accident, as well as inside moving vehicles. They work long days, and whether it rains, snows, or hails, paramedics are out there speeding the streets and saving lives. They can work in the seedy, dangerous parts of cities, the upscale areas, as well as suburbs and residential neighborhoods. They may work in rural communities, and can be paid or volunteer their services. Ambulance attendants are employed by private ambulance services, hospitals and fire departments, as well as by government agencies and companies which have dangerous worksites, like mines, factories and oil drilling sites.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Depending on their level of training, an ambulance attendant can start as a primary care paramedic, moving up the ranks to more advanced positions. The goal is to provide all citizens with advanced prehospital care. An ambulance attendant can also work for companies, as safety inspectors, as well as teach first aid, and write safety and first aid manuals, or move onto the police force or train to work as a firefighter.
 

  Educational Paths  
The educational path of an ambulance attendant depends on the individual and the capacity in which they want to join the field. All ambulance training is achieved at the college level, and focusses in different degrees on various first aid tehniques, from bandaging a wound and treating trauma victims, to delivering babies and dispensing medications intravenously. The programs are offered at colleges throughout the US, and each course takes between 10 and 25 months, depending on the area and the level of training. Most ambulance attendants start out with a more general knowledge of first aid, and then move onto primary care positions, moving up the levels as they gain more experience with the job. After completing their various courses, ambulance attendants must register with a professional association.
 

Sources:
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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