Ever thought about becoming an Emergency Medical Technician as a career path or as a way to complete direct patient care hours for graduate school? I chose to become an EMT in order to treat patients in a higher capacity, to expose myself to patients with higher acuity, and to continue to add more patient care hours to my application while applying to Physician Assistant school for the second round.
An Emergency Medical Technician – Basic is the beginner level of the EMS “hierarchy”. EMTs are known to have the ability to administer first aid treatment and life support care to sick and/or injured patients in a pre-hospital setting (EMTs are also found in Emergency Departments and are known as ED techs). EMTs take vital signs, administer drugs, and coordinate with other emergency medical team members, police, and fire department personnel.
As I was going through my EMT course I was very excited to be given more responsibility and involvement in patient care! I thought of it as a step above what I had been doing, which was scribing and CNA work. As I was looking for jobs, I was surprised to learn that not every ambulance company is able to respond to 911 calls. I guess I just always assumed every EMT was found in an ambulance responding to patients in emergencies but I was definitely wrong! Many ambulance companies only transport patients in between facilities. For example, if a patient is in a nursing home and needs to be seen at a hospital 30 minutes away and the patient needs 24 hour oxygen administration, then that patient may be taken via ambulance. In EMS this is called IFT, inter-facility transport.
The EMS world was beginning to lose its excitement for me after finding this out, but I was able to quickly find a job with a private ambulance company that had a 911 contract with the city, meaning we were able to take patients who call 911 with Basic Life Support symptoms and complaints as well as transport patients via IFT. As I was a part time employee I was able to chose the shifts I wanted to be on, and I only chose 911. Now, I don’t know if it was the area I was in, or if this is found everywhere, but I immediately realized how frequently people abuse calling 911 and abuse the use of the Emergency Department. In one mind, I am happy to treat whoever truly believes they are hurting, sick, injured, etc. but in my other mind, I am not understanding of how people are so casual about calling 911 for a cough lasting two days and a mild fever of 99 F. The abuse of the whole system really sort of boggled my mind. Patients often appeared offended if you or a nurse or physician asked them “why did you call 911?” and they didn’t have a good answer. It became discouraging over time and made me understand how important educating people of health and health care really is when I become a PA.
Another thing I was not too fond of was only having one partner throughout a shift to depend on for everything. If your partner cuts corners on patient care, it could potentially fall back on you. Having only worked in a hospital setting, I had never been placed in that kind of situation. It’s one of those things where if you have a great partner, someone you vibe with, someone who compliments your attitude and personality, its a great 12 hours at work. Otherwise, it could be a completely miserable 12 hours of awkward silence, sideways comments, and clock-watching to count down the time you have left of your shift.
Now, I’m not trying to dog out EMS and I would never want to deter anyone from going this route if this is really what they want to do. I did meet some great co-workers and patients through my journey of my first EMT job. I enjoyed talking with patients and treating them to the best of my ability. Pre-hospital care is actually really cool and fulfilling when you get to transport a patient who is critically in need of care. Before going the EMT route, I was a pediatric emergency department scribe and before that, I was a CNA while in undergraduate school. I can say that I probably enjoyed being a CNA the most, which is interesting because most people would find that job tedious and non-fulfilling, but I worked at a great hospital with some great co-workers and that always makes things so much more fun. I think as a entered the EMS pre-hospital treatment world, I realized I took for granted the stability and teamwork of the hospital world.
As I make my move back home to Texas, I’ve been applying to both ambulance and emergency department EMT jobs. I’m hoping I can find a job in an ED in order to see that side of emergency medicine. Either way, I’m happy that I have July to look forward to. Only 5 more months until the start of PA school!
Any questions on how to get into EMS, what to look for in a job, etc. reach out! I’d be more than happy to continue sharing my experiences thus far as an EMT.