The health workforce has experienced tough times in the past two years, especially with the pandemic hitting the whole world. However, even after that, the lack of healthcare personnel is overwhelming, making it challenging for people to get proper treatment and care while the staff barely makes it through the shifts. The WHO expects a 10 million health workers shortage by 2023―an alarming situation.
EMT personnel are also highly demanded since they can make the difference between life and death. Having EMTs around allows people to get the needed care in case of emergency, especially when it comes to providing CPR, wrapping wounds or administering oxygen. An EMT job can be pretty challenging since the 12-hour shifts (sometimes prolonged) can lead to tiredness due to a lack of staff. If you, too, want to become an EMT and save lives, here’s what you need to acquire.
Although you don’t need a bachelor’s degree to perform this job, you still need to have a complete primary education. A high school diploma is necessary, but if you didn’t have the chance to get it, you could apply for a GED certification (General Education Development) which can be accessible in some states, but it usually costs around $40. It can take around three months to earn it, but this depends on how well-prepared you are.
At the same time, you’re required to have a few skills which are essential for being an EMT, such as the following:
- Problem-solving. Since you’ll be faced with different situations where you’ll have to make the best decisions, you must think fast because the quicker you act, the better your patient’s condition will get;
- Communication. You must be able to properly communicate with both patients and co-workers to get all the information needed as well as transmit it to hospitals and other EMT personnel. Providing correct data can help your patients recover better, and your co-workers have a faster workflow;
Knowing how to perform CPR is the core of being an EMT. You need to master it before starting an EMT program, so you should look for organizations that are recognized in your state. For example, in the US, you can get:
- AHA (American Heart Association) certification;
- Red Cross CPR certification;
Although both programs provide blended courses (online and offline) and offer certifications, the American Heart Association certifies their students for two years. It also requires a higher score on their exams to pass. If you check the AHA website, you’ll see they are constantly organizing specific programs and courses on CPR, advanced cardiac life support and pediatric life support. You’ll also learn how to stop someone’s bleeding, recognize a narcotic/opioid response and everything about code drills.
The next and most important step is to sign up for an EMT program where you’ll basically learn anything you need for performing:
- Trauma care
- Hemorrhage control
- Stabilization of fractures
A basic EMT training course will approach both practical and lecture-based information so that you can properly link the knowledge with the procedure. Most courses provide around 180 hours of training, and completing the course may vary from three to five months, depending on the schedule you select. During the program, you’ll be required to prove competence regarding practical skills and written exams, which will add to the number of patient contacts in clinical settings.
If you want to get more advanced, you’ll need to attend more courses. As a beginner EMT, you’ll only be able to provide primary lifesaving care and first aid. Still, you must acquire a few more hours of practice for more complicated procedures, such as using a defibrillator to resuscitate patients.
Before getting your certification, it’s necessary to pass the cognitive examination, which usually consists of five critical areas:
- Airway and respiration;
- Obstetrics and gynecology;
- EMS operations;
The first four areas will be split into adult and pediatric knowledge since you need to be prepared to provide first aid to both adults and children. The time limit is usually around two hours, and you’ll have around 100 multiple-choice questions you need to answer.
To ensure your success, it’s essential to get prepared beforehand by doing EMT exam practice tests. If you do it properly, you’ll be able to see which parts of the required areas you’re getting wrong and which topics need more attention in studying. It would be best to try and understand the information rather than memorize it because there will be different occurrences each day, and you’ll need to understand how the body works so that you can provide the best treatment.
Finally, the psychomotor exam is essential to prove you’re ready to fulfill the responsibilities of an EMT. To pass this exam, you’d need to score at least 70% to get fully certified. There are six important sections you need to manage:
- Pain assessment and management: scene size-up, primary survey and history taking;
- Medical pain assessment: secondary assessment, vital signs and reassessment;
- BVM ventilation of an apneic adult patient: breathing and pulse, opening the airway, BVM ventilation;
- Oxygen administration: assembling the regulator to the oxygen tank and providing PPE precautions;
- Cardiac arrest management: patient responsiveness, CPR and operating on AED;
- Spinal immobilization: maintaining head position, directing patient movement;
Besides attending classes and learning vital information, you must constantly practice and watch psychomotor exam videos to get insight into specific details you might’ve missed or haven’t considered. At the same time, practicing keeping yourself together and not panicking is essential because, at some point, your skills will be vital to someone else’s life.
Being an EMT is both challenging and rewarding. Although you might work many hours and discover unseen cases, the thought of saving someone’s life can help you move on and build up a strong character that will allow you to be calm in emergency situations. So, take your time to study and practice, and you’ll become a successful EMT.