Primary Care Paramedic

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Primary Care Paramedic


Paramedics are perhaps best known to us by their vehicles: loud, large ambulances 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 paramedic is the general term we use when talking about these multi-talented heroes.

Each region has its own way of dividing up the work to be done by the paramedics, as different levels of paramedic are trained and responsible for different things. Becoming a primary care paramedic is the first step for anyone interested in the field. Generally, these paramedics are prepared to treat allergic reactions, asthma attacks and diabetic emergencies using simple drugs, like aspirin and epinephrine. They are trained in CPR and are capable of delivering babies as well as caring for stroke victims. They may also have specialized knowledge of first aid for children as well as the elderly.

Along with direct patient interaction, paramedics 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.

Paramedics are brave, and 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. Paramedics 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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  Interests and Skills  
Successful primary care paramedics are quick-thinking and confident in their skills and abilities. They work well in a team and under pressure in unexpected situations. Most primary care paramedics appreciate adventure, as well as risk, as well as have a strong interest and desire in helping others in times of crisis. They are sensitive, compassionate, and patient - crucial skills to possess as they work with the mentally ill, the elderly, and children on a daily basis. They are interested in health care and advanced treatments for all kinds of 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
  • 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
  • Drive the ambulance
  • Paramedics 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 paramedics on the job during that time). Paramedics are required to put themselves at risk when saving others: exposure to dangerous situations is all part of a day's work. Paramedics encounter many types of people with differing needs and abilities, and paramedics work hard each day to help them all.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Paramedics work both indoors and outdoors, on 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 on 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.
  • Paramedics 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  
With additional training and experience, primary care paramedics an advance to higher positions with increasing responsiblity. There is a trend to increase the training and treatment capabilities of the nation's paramedics, with an aim to have more advanced paramedics working across the nation. The goal is to provide all citizens with advanced pre-hospital care.

  Educational Paths  
Primary care paramedics are the first level in paramedic standing. They are trained in specific areas, which they learn in various college courses. Because each region has different requirements for first level paramedics, each college program will be slightly different. Generally, the courses are about 10 months long, and include studies on the health care system, anatomy, psychology, and practical first aid techniques. At the end of the course, the student will get their Basic Trauma Life Support certificate, and will most likely be required to register with a regional paramedic association.

Paramedics often re-train throughout their careers, to ensure that their knowledge is fresh and up-to-date.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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