When someone calls 911 for any reason, EMTs and paramedics are often the first responders on the scene. While it appears they handle the same job duties, they are actually quite different. What sets the two apart is the level of education and the procedures they are allowed to perform. EMTs can handle most of the basic health procedures like performing CPR and using oxygen on a patient, and paramedics can perform more complex procedures like inserting IV lines, administering drugs, and more.
Both EMTs and paramedics work within emergency medical services teams. These teams are composed of medical professionals that provide basic and advanced care to patients. Both can help a patient while they’re being transported to a medical facility, but paramedics are trained to provide advanced care.
Education and experience requirements
EMTs don’t need an associate’s or bachelor’s degree from a college. A high school diploma or GED is sufficient, however, EMTs should have cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification, and they must complete an EMT training program. EMT training programs are generally completed in around 150 hours, but paramedics must complete around 1,000 to 2,000 hours or more.
It is not uncommon for paramedics to work as EMTs before completing their paramedic training. Paramedics are required to complete training for basic and advanced EMTs and also complete additional hours. College degree programs for paramedics usually take two years with between 1,000 and 2,000 hours of training.
Job duties of EMTs and paramedics
In the field of medicine, emergency medical technicians (EMTs) are the most common type of health professionals. They often see the patient first and start entry-level care while being transported to the hospital. EMTs are responsible for monitoring the condition of a patient, and they examine the nature and severity of the patient’s injuries. Then, they inform the hospital about the patient’s condition.
These healthcare workers are licensed, pre-hospital service providers. Paramedics provide care for the patient before and as they reach the hospital. The care they provide is just about the same as emergency room care. They are better trained than EMTs in treating acute illnesses and injuries. They are trained in physiology, cardiology, medical procedures, and medication. Both EMTs and paramedics are usually called to a scene after a call to 911.
Where they work
Generally, EMTs work for private ambulance services, hospitals, fire departments, and police departments. They have a limited scope of practice and work under the supervision of a medical director or physician.
In the setting of ambulance services, paramedics and EMTs work together, but paramedics can also work for air ambulances (helicopters) and fire services. Paramedics most commonly work in emergency medical services.
The bottom line
EMTs are often the first to arrive at a trauma scene, and they provide entry-level medical services and support to patients before they reach a hospital. They can administer basic medical care and CPR. They work closely with paramedics, but the level of care they can provide is quite limited. An EMT’s job duties and level of education are both lesser than that of paramedics.
Paramedics are more advanced than EMTs and can perform more sophisticated treatment. Paramedics have between 1,000 and 2,000 hours, and they can administer medicines, perform intubation, insert IVs, and administer drugs.