What is a Paramedic?
Next To Creating A Life The Finest Thing A Man Can Do Is Save One — Abraham Lincoln.
A paramedic is the closest thing to a doctor the public will ever see outside the hospital. Let’s face it; doctors don’t do house calls anymore. Besides, they don’t teach doctors or nurses to deal with the chaos and limited resources of the streets. Being a paramedic is 25 % rescue work, 25% social worker, 25 % street smarts, 25% medicine, and 100% being quick and adaptable.
It takes (average) about two years to be a paramedic. First you have to be an EMT. An EMT does basic care, administers a few limited drugs (oxygen, adrenalin [we call it epinephrine] for allergic reactions and others) and has some basic knowledge of common medical conditions. The paramedic does all that and a lot more. We do â physician level emergency skills, give emergency drugs, and have extensive knowledge for common medical conditions. But there is a saying every good paramedic is a great EMT. Meaning without the basics, the fancy stuff will not matter.
Why be a paramedic?
A lot of people ask me why did I become a paramedic, including being a nurse. On the average, nurses (sometimes) make more than a paramedic. But I am not a person who can sit still for very long. People often think it’s an adrenalin rush. Not for me, besides that’s a myth after the first year it’s the challenge rush the challenge of figuring things out, solving problems, all at three AM in a ditch or cold apartment, and knowing you did the job better than any other profession could have in that situation.
It’s also, as a friend of mine said about answering a Call to duty. I think everyone has that need to be part of something greater than something, something that means something beyond computer code, financial reports, or what ever. For some it’s a call to arms (the military) for others it’s a call to teach, some answer the need by doing charity work, coaching football, being a big brother. For me it was a Call for help. I like the fact that when other people are in a time of crisis, when it’s something that they cant handle, its me they call for help. They are crying, afraid, upset, sometimes drunk, abusive, or what ever, but its still me that comes in and puts order to chaos and tries to do some good. Does it always work? Heck no, but it sure feels good when it does!
There are a lot of options in being a medic, after you get experience. There are paramedics who train to go into special rescue situations (mountain rescue for example), paramedics who go with the swat teams, there are medics who work in very isolated areas (like oil rigs, ships, etc), that function with a lot of independence. There are critical care paramedics also. These used to be mainly flight paramedics, but more and more these teams are working on ground units too, so flight doesn’t really apply anymore. Paramedics, in many places also may work in the emergency room, working similar to nurses. There are paramedics who now do nothing but teach EMT and Paramedic courses. There are paramedics who are safety officers for large companies.
Choosing a paramedic program:
First and foremost, you want a degree. That means a college or university. That is the way this profession is heading, at least a two year degree. You also want an accredited program that has been teaching paramedics for at least 3 years. You want them to provide you a list with clinical sites, as the ones with clinical sites at the better hospitals and larger ambulance services generally have their act together. Also, check with the state board of EMS to see if there is any action pending against the program you are looking at.
Also look at where your final field internship will be. Sometimes courses will set up internships across the country at large services . This is usually a very good sign.
Gone are the days of the “big dumb ambulance driver with a strong back and weak mind I am proud of my profession, it is my career. It is not for everyone, it is not easy, but if it was, it wouldn’t be worthwhile.