What is a Paramedic?

Paramedics and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) care for the sick or injured in emergency medical settings.

People’s lives often depend on their quick reaction and competent care. They respond to emergency calls, performing medical services and transporting patients to medical facilities. They work both indoors and outdoors, in all types of weather. Their work is physically strenuous and can be stressful, sometimes involving life-or-death situations.

What does a Paramedic do?

A paramedic responding to an emergency call.

Paramedics generally provide more extensive pre-hospital care than do EMTs. In addition to carrying out the procedures that EMTs use, paramedics can give medications orally and intravenously, interpret electrocardiograms (EKGs)—used to monitor heart function—and use other monitors and complex equipment.

An EMT-Basic, also known as an EMT, cares for patients at the scene and while taking patients by ambulance to a hospital. They have the emergency skills to assess a patient's condition and manage respiratory, cardiac, and trauma emergencies.

An EMT-Intermediate, also known as Advanced EMT, has completed the training required at the EMT-Basic level, as well as training for more advanced skills, such as the use of intravenous fluids and some medications.

Paramedics and EMTs typically do the following:

  • Respond to 911 calls for emergency medical assistance, such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
  • Assess a patient’s condition and determine a course of treatment
  • Follow guidelines that they learned in training and that they receive from physicians who oversee their work
  • Use backboards and restraints to keep patients still and safe in an ambulance for transport
  • Help transfer patients to the emergency department of a healthcare facility and report their observations and treatment to the staff
  • Create a patient care report; documenting the medical care they gave the patient
  • Replace used supplies and check or clean equipment after use
  • If a patient has a contagious disease, paramedics and EMTs decontaminate the interior of the ambulance and may need to report these cases to the proper authorities.

When taking a patient to the hospital, one EMT or paramedic may drive the ambulance while the other monitors the patient's vital signs and gives additional care. Some work as part of a helicopter's flight crew to transport critically ill or injured patients to a hospital. Some patients may just need to be transferred to a hospital that specializes in treating their injury or illness or to a facility that provides long-term care, such as a nursing home. Paramedics and EMTs are often asked to do this.

Are you suited to be a paramedic?

Paramedics have distinct personalities. They tend to be social individuals, which means they’re kind, generous, cooperative, patient, caring, helpful, empathetic, tactful, and friendly. They excel at socializing, helping others, and teaching. Some of them are also investigative, meaning they’re intellectual, introspective, and inquisitive.

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What is the workplace of a Paramedic like?

Paramedics and EMTs work both indoors and outdoors, in all types of weather. Their work is physically strenuous and can be stressful, sometimes involving life-or-death situations and patients who are suffering. Most career EMTs and paramedics work in metropolitan areas. Volunteer EMTs and paramedics are more common in small cities, towns, and rural areas. These individuals volunteer for fire departments, providers of emergency medical services, or hospitals and may respond to only a few calls per month.

Paramedics and EMTs must provide emotional support to patients in an emergency, especially patients who are in life-threatening situations or extreme mental distress. They almost always work on teams and must be able to coordinate their activities closely with others in stressful situations. They need to listen to patients to determine the extent of their injuries or illnesses.

Paramedics also need to be physically fit. Their job requires a lot of bending, lifting, and kneeling.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to become a Paramedic?

Formal training is offered by technical institutes, community colleges, and facilities that specialize in emergency care training. At the EMT-Basic level, training includes instruction in assessing patients' conditions, dealing with trauma and cardiac emergencies, clearing obstructed airways, using field equipment, and handling emergencies. Formal courses include about 100 hours of specialized training. Some training may be required to take place in a hospital or ambulance setting.

The EMT-Intermediate typically requires 1,000 hours of training based on the scope of practice. At this level, people must complete the training required at the EMT-Basic level, as well as more advanced training, such as training in the use of complex airway devices, intravenous fluids, and some medications.

Paramedics have the most advanced level of training. They must complete EMT-level and Advanced EMT training, as well as training in advanced medical skills. Community colleges and technical schools may offer this training, in which graduates may receive an associate's degree. Paramedic programs require about 1,300 hours of training and may take up to two years to complete. Their broader scope of practice may include stitching wounds or administering IV medications.

Separate training and licensure is required to drive an ambulance. Although some emergency medical services hire separate drivers, paramedics take a course requiring about eight hours of training before they can drive an ambulance.

Are Paramedics happy?

Paramedics rank in the 57th percentile of careers for satisfaction scores. Please note that this number is derived from the data we have collected from our Sokanu members only.

Paramedics weave back and forth between that precarious line of life and death, and unlike the people who can drive by crash scenes and look away, they have to jump in and help. For those who like to work under pressure, be put out of their comfort zone, and who relish a challenge, this job can bring an immense amount of satisfaction and reward to one's life.

At the same time, it's difficult work - there's no doubt about that. It will undoubtedly take a toll mentally and physically. There are various ways of dealing with the stress, from talking with workmates to using internal support services.

Should I become a Paramedic?

A career as a paramedic can be incredibly rewarding for a compassionate, courageous and driven person. It can offer a number of benefits for those suited to a career in the medical profession. While there is no denying that the stress of being a paramedic can be intense, it's also one of the most important positions one can fill in their community.

Pondering the question of whether to become a paramedic using pros and cons as a guide is a good way to determine if this career choice is right for you.


Camaraderie - Paramedics typically work in pairs and rely on teamwork to perform effectively. The relationship and camaraderie between paramedics is unlike any other - they know what each other is thinking (especially in emergency situations) which enables them to treat and take care of patients in a timely, safe, and efficient manner.

Helping Others - Paramedics are able to quickly assess medical conditions and provide expert medical care that can make all the difference when faced with a life and death situation. There is a certain amount of satisfaction that comes from helping others in the community and playing an important role in society.

Building a Foundation - Being a paramedic can provide a solid foundation for moving onto better paying careers - many doctors, nurses, and firefighters begin their careers as paramedics. Valuable hands-on experience can be gained treating patients who suffer from a wide variety of injuries and illnesses and will help those who'd like to pursue advanced medical training and educational pursuits.

Strong Growth - The paramedic career is expected to experience rapid growth which should result in numerous job opportunities (increasing by approximately 33 percent between 2010 and 2020 according to The Bureau of Labor Statistics). The increase in the number of elderly people and their related health problems is a major reason why the demand for paramedics should remain high.


Shift Work - This is not a good career for people who value regular work schedules and short work days. A paramedic's work schedule often requires days away from home and unpredictable hours (for example, 24 to 48 hour shifts, followed by two days off). This means a work week that varies every week, with some weeks being heavier on weekdays and lighter on weekends, then cycling to being heavier on weekends and lighter on weekdays.

Dealing With Volatile People - Paramedics understandably are in contact with people who are not having the best of days. Patients and their family members might be offensive and/or rude due to the stress that an emergency situation can cause.

Injuries and Illnesses - Paramedics are at risk for suffering from work-related injuries and/or illnesses as a result of all the bending, lifting, and kneeling that they frequently do. They may be coughed/spit on, come into contact with a patient's vomit, feces, or urine, or come into contact with people who are infected with diseases like hepatitis-B or AIDS.

Dealing With Stress - Paramedics must have a steel constitution for some of the extremely stressful and traumatic situations they encounter. They need to be able to operate quickly, calmly, and efficiently under crisis situations (such as car accidents, heart attacks, shootings, stabbings, drownings etc.,) where keeping one's cool can make the difference between life and death for a patient. Not only may you meet someone having the worst day of their life, sometimes it's also the last day of their life. You'll have to be prepared for that, physically and emotionally, every day that you go in to work. If you are someone who gets easily rattled or stressed, becoming a paramedic might not be the right choice for you.

Paramedics are also known as:
Emergency Medical Technician First Responder EMT