EMT stands for Emergency Medical Technician. In the past EMTs have been referred to as “ambulance attendants” and “ambulance drivers.”
However, ambulance driving is only a small part of some EMT jobs.
The modern EMT is more highly trained than in the past and is more involved in assessing and treating patients than ever before.
When you see an ambulance in a TV show or movie, it’s usually an EMT or Paramedic that loads the patient onto a gurney in the show.
If they are inserting IV’s into the patient, you know the healthcare workers are Paramedics and not EMTs.
Paramedics are a higher level of emergency medical provider than EMTs. (See EMT vs. Paramedic to learn more about the difference between the two.)
There are 4 nationally recognized certification levels of prehospital emergency medical providers. EMTs and Paramedics are the certifications most often employed.
National Certification Levels
Emergency Medical Responder (EMR)
Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)
Advanced Emergency Medical Technician (AEMT)
So What is an EMT?
An EMT is a trained medical worker who can assess, treat, and transport patients in distress. EMTs provide Basic Life Support (BLS) to sick or injured patients and can respond to both medical and traumatic emergencies.
Emergency medical technicians are the most common providers in Emergency Medical Services (EMS). They can work in the prehospital setting, responding to 911 calls, and can work for private ambulance services.
Emergency medical technicians can also work with Fire Departments and inside hospitals, usually in Emergency Departments or Intensive Care Units. (See EMT jobs for detailed EMT job options.)
The length of time it takes to become trained as an emergency medical technician varies by state.
On average most EMT programs are about 150 hours long and take about 3 – 6 months to complete.
What Do EMTs Do?
Being an emergency medical technician is physically demanding due to the frequent moving, rolling and lifting of patients. However, both males and females can perform well as an EMT by using correct lifting techniques.
Being an EMT is very hands-on with a lot of patient care and involves good interpersonal communication.
The emergency medical technician also fills out paperwork for every call and gives a verbal report whenever dropping the patient off at a facility.
EMTs are trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the use of Automated External Defibrillators (AED).
An EMT quickly becomes experienced at rapidly assessing patients and determining life threatening illness or injury.
EMTs are experts at the primary assessment, secondary assessment and rapid trauma assessments.
An EMT with an ambulance job provides prehospital care to patients of all ages and in many different settings.
These emergency medical technicians help patients with breathing and ventilation problems by placing airways, providing oxygen therapy and using a bag valve mask device when necessary.
Another skill every EMT has is to treat serious bleeding. Along with controlling bleeding, EMTs dress wounds, treat soft tissue injuries and splint musculoskeletal injuries.
EMTs are also experts at taking vital signs. They take blood pressure, pulse and respirations on every patient, repeatedly.
Often emergency medical technicians will take vital signs every five minutes if needed.
In between calls the EMT cleans and disinfects their equipment. They also make sure they have proper equipment and stock their ambulance at the beginning of every shift.
→ Keep an eye out for our next post How to Become an EMT?
→ Do you have what it takes to be an EMT? Check out 5 Qualities of a Good EMT.
→ Another good read is 15 Reasons to Become an EMT Now.
Think you might want to become an EMT? Check out our Home page for information on how to begin EMT training.
Christina Beutler is the creator of EMT Training Base. She is a former EMT and a current Registered Nurse. Christina’s path changed after taking a Basic First Aid class while in Community College, and a career in healthcare opened up. Working as an Emergency Medical Technician led to a passion for nursing and a job working in the Intensive Care Unit and Critical Care Unit right out of Nursing School. To learn more about Christina’s story, head over to the About page.