Paully B of www.ambulancejunkie.com was kind enough to get JobShadowed about his career as an EMT.  Check out his blog and you can also find his Twitter feed on the sidebar.  

What do you do for a living?

I am an Emergency Medical Technician or EMT for short. I work on an ambulance providing care during emergency and non emergency situations. We get called to every kind of situation that could require medical attention of a person. From car accidents and house fires to chest pains and difficulty in breathing an EMT is always there to provide emergency medical care.

How would you describe what you do?

I am a integral component to the american health care system. I respond to in an ambulance to people requesting assistance for various medical complaints. I provide first aid and life saving interventions to the public until we arrive at the emergency room. We care for the patients in various ways like stopping bleeding from laceration’s or providing CPR. Much of what we do though is provide compassion and assistance to some one in their time of need.

What does your work entail?

Caring for the sick and injured physically as well as emotionally. We are responsible for safely moving patients to the stretcher, loading them in the ambulance and gathering medical information. We apply what they are telling us about thier complaint with various signs and symptoms along with vital signs to direct our course of invasive and non invasive treatment’ s. All while transporting to the hospitals emergency room.

What’s a typical work week like?

Although this varies greatly depending on the agency one works for, I work four twelve hour shifts a week totaling 48 hours a week. As we are dictated by medical request through a 911 center there is no typical day or week. We try to prepare for any situation that could arise during the shift though by checking the ambulance at the beginning of the shift. Stocking what may be missing our was used on a previous call. Within my agency we provide not only 911 responce but also tranportation from one hospital to another for patients that may require a higher level of care than they are receiving.

How did you get started?

I began as a volunteer firefighter and found the aspect of medicine far more execiting. I obtained my EMT certification while in college and shortly there after applied for a job at the busiest agency in the county where I got hired. I had little to no before hand knowledge of emergency medicine or what it would entail before my class.

What do you like about what you do?

I love my job, I truly enjoy interacting with people, knowing that I have the potential to make a difference in their day. There is so much of this job that is about care and compassion in a psychological aspect. Talking to the patient trying to convey to them that we will do every thing in our ability to keep them safe and sustained until we can get them to definitive care.

What do you dislike?  

I dislike the publics’ misunderstandings of what it means to work on an ambulance. Along with the idea that EMS is nothing more than a stepping stone to greater things.

When the fact of the matter is the highly trained and knowledgable providers are capable of doing most of what the staff of the emergency room can do initially also. Giving medicine, providing life saving interventions, and offering compassion for those in need.

How do you make money/or how are you compensated?

I am compensated at an hourly wage.

How much money do you make as an EMT?

Depending on factors such as additional overtime, holiday pay, and years of service one could expect to make 28,000-60,000 a year all dependant on the system one works in.

How much money do/did you make starting out as an EMT?

Eight years ago when I started the hourly wage was $7 an hour but that has since changed to reflect the times.  Wages start around $10 hour now give or take.

What education, schooling, or skills are needed to do this?

With various certification or licencing levels that exist in emergency medical services that will dictate what degree of education you will need. You can typically get started with a one semester class in a community college, agency or county  sponsored course. As you progress to the paramedic level it can take two years to complete. This is only the start, there is always the need to continue learning and developing skills through continuing education courses.

What is most challenging about what you do?

There is a high physical demand in this career field which entails the moving and lifting of equipment and patients. Yet the most challenging part is keeping your composure and holding it together during some difficult times. The emotional stress is the hardest on many a provider, going to the sick and injured time after time can be hard. EMT’s are not called out when people are having good days, we typically see society during thier time of need.

What is most rewarding?

Knowing you made a difference to a person. knowing you were able to help some one in need get the medical attention they deserve in a timely manor.

What advice would you offer someone considering this career?

You need to enjoy helping people, and be emotionally able to handle high stress environments along with the physical demands of the job. The personal rewards far out weigh the stress of this career in my opinion. There is nothing like saving a life our making sometimes day a little bit better through what you do.

How much time off do you get/take?

Every agency is different and based on how long give been at an agency will determine how much time you get off. I get twelve days paid time off which worked out to be three weeks. May not sound like alot but when factored in with the three days off I already get during my regular week it spans a considerable amount of time for sure.

What is a common misconception people have about what you do?

The biggest one is that when the ambulance arrives to a patient that all we are going to do is place the sick or injured on a stretcher and drive them to the hospital. When I’m fact we will provide much of thee initial treatments and care you would recieve in the Emergency Room. We are highly trained individuals that provide truly amazing interventions and can assist in reducing your stay at the hospital.

What are your goals/dreams for the future?

I look at emergency medical services and hope that one day it will be a highly respected and better understood part of medicine with in this country and globally. There are many hurdles that need to be overcome but day in and day out there are people striving to change the perception of what EMS is all about.

What else would you like people to know about your job/career?

The job of an EMT is always advancing and developing. It puts you on the fore front of emergency medicine where you can do alot of good for people. It’s a fast paced physically demanding  job at times but I feel the rewards of helping people in need exceed s all of that.