A team of EMTs stand and smile after a job well done

What is an EMT?

Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) are trained to care for individuals in ill health or critical condition. When emergency situations occur, quick and competent care response time can mean the life or death of the individual. EMTs are typically the trained individuals who arrive at the scene first to provide emergency medical assistance. EMTs are trained to respond to emergency calls, work with police and firefighters, and provide medical assistance and transportation of the individual in critical condition to appropriate medical facilities.

EMTs often work in an ambulance team to respond to dispatcher emergency calls. If an EMT team is treating an individual on the way to a hospital, then typically one person will drive the ambulance while the other member or members check the patient’s vital signs and provide additional care. Other EMTs work in hospital helicopter flight crews to transport the individuals in the most critical care.

Typical responsibilities of the EMT on call include performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), bandaging wounds, helping patients remain still and calm on the way to the hospital, assessing the patient’s condition to be communicated to hospital staff, creating necessary reports, and transporting individuals to medical facilities as fast as possible.

The work environment of an EMT is quite stressful. EMTs have to respond to emergencies regardless of weather and sometimes without knowing the full situation prior to arrival. EMTs must not only remain calm to treat patients, but they also have to help patients remain calm during emergencies. EMTs respond to normal occurrences that happen frequently like car accidents, heart attacks, and other serious conditions, but they also have to respond when there are more extreme emergencies that involve hundreds or thousands of people.

There are also health risks that go along with being an EMT. EMTs run a higher risk of exposure to blood-borne diseases like hepatitis and AIDS. They also have to move around quite a bit in various situations to care for patients by lifting and moving patients, so their joints and muscles can suffer. They are also dealing with emergency situations where patients may be frantic, hostile, or unstable, which can lead to injury.

Being an EMT can be a rewarding career path because it’s a position that involves saving lives and helping people get needed care. It can also be quite dangerous. If you’ve ever wanted to go into emergency medical services, but you don’t necessarily want to go through all of the schooling required for doctors or nurses, becoming an EMT may be the career path for you.

Last Updated: April 15, 2015