Emergency Medical Technology/Technician (EMT Paramedic)  Program Description


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dotStudents in paramedic programs need to have an aptitude for medicine and the ability to stay cool under pressure. This is an intense program that leads to a fulfilling career.

Paramedic programs are offered in a wide variety of settings, from medical centers to community colleges.

The length of programs often varies widely as well. At Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, emergency medical services education manager Judy Flavin reports that students in the EMT (emergency medical technician) basic program spend around 130 hours in the classroom and in skills practice, including an eight-hour ride in the ambulance.

Most programs range from one semester to two years. The best jobs, though, go to the most qualified, and that usually means more time in school.

Admission requirements vary widely. Some colleges admit students on a first-come, first-served basis. Others have rigorous entrance standards that include written tests and high school prerequisites.

At Wallace Community College in Alabama, candidates for the EMT basic program must be 18 years old, possess a valid driver's license and possess a high school diploma or GED. Requirements become stricter if a student passes the EMT basic and wishes to progress to EMT intermediate or EMT paramedic, says Fred Pich, the program chair.

Jim Whittle, head of the paramedic department at a community college, says applicants must also write an entrance exam that tests their math, reading and problem-solving skills.

Students learn about the use of emergency equipment such as backboards and oxygen delivery systems. They also get instruction and practice in dealing with a variety of emergency situations, from childbirth to cardiac arrest to trauma.

Courses in communications and psychology are also offered in many programs, since a large part of a paramedic's job consists of dealing with the public. Because of the physical nature of paramedic medicine, physical education courses are often part of paramedic programs. Whittle's program has a physical fitness requirement for graduation.

On-the-job training is part of most programs and includes time in hospital emergency rooms and on ambulances. Much of this training takes place at night and on weekends.

Students must be dedicated and motivated -- the programs are often very intense. Long hours are required of these students, so they should have more than just a passing interest in the program, says Whittle.

Competition for spots in these courses is often fierce. Applicants can set themselves ahead of the pack by concentrating on the sciences in high school and by having good reading comprehension skills. Physical fitness is also helpful, since heavy lifting and good physical stamina is often expected of paramedics.

Volunteering in a hospital or taking high school credits in emergency medicine can also help.

In most places, continuing education and re-registration (usually every two years) is required of working paramedics.


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For more information related to this field of study, see: Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics

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