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Critical 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. Critical care paramedics are not as common as advanced and primary care paramedics. Critical care paramedics are highly trained in all areas of life saving, and have learned skills that rival a physician's. Critical care paramedics can treat many disorders, use different machines and medical devices, as well as administer drugs to patients. Training for them might differentiate between child and adult critical care.

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 infectious agents like hepatitis and HIV.

It takes a special kind of person to take on a role such as this, one who is driven by adrenaline as well as compassion.
View Schools for this Career: 
         Related Careers
arrow Advanced Care Paramedic
arrow Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)
arrow Primary Care Paramedic

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  Interests and Skills  
Successful critial 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 critical 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
  • 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
  • Train and supervise other paramedics
  • Understand and use medical machines for treatment
  • 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 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.
  • Paramedics are employed by private ambulance services, hospitals and fire departments, as well as by government agencies and companies that have dangerous worksites, like mines, factories, and oil drilling sites.

  Long Term Career Potential  
There is a trend to increase the training and treatment capabilities of the nation's paramedics, with an aim to expand the number of advanced and critical care paramedics across the nation. However, once you have made it as far as critical care, you may choose to leave the ambulance and become a supervisor, or even a nurse or doctor. You can also find work with companies, recreation facilities, the fire department, as a safety inspector, as well as teach first aid, and write safety and first aid manuals. You could sell medical supplies to hospitals, private ambulance organizations, and clinics, or move onto the police force, or train to be a firefighter.

  Educational Paths  
Because each region has different requirements for paramedics, each college program will be slightly different. Generally, the courses are between one and two years long, however, some re-certification courses can be much shorter. A critical care paramedic will have already gotten their Basic Trauma Life Support certification, as well as their Advanced Trauma Life Support certificate. In order to become a critical care paramedic they will most likely need their Pediatric Life Support certification, also as well their Instructor certificate. These workers are highly trained in complex medical procedures, who, after completing the requirements, will need to register with a paramedic association, as one of the few critical care paramedics in their area.

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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