Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics respond to emergencies, from someone who may be having a heart attack in her home to multi-vehicle accidents on the highway. EMTs are most frequently found in ambulances but some may provide care for patients being transported by air as well.
They provide first-line medical or emergency care for sick and injured people at the scene, which may be in the person’s home, at an accident site or other places and while they are being transported to the hospital for care. They typically operate in teams with one person serving as an emergency vehicle operator while the other continues to provide life-saving emergency care to the patient en route to a medical facility.
The National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians describes four categories of emergency medical practitioners:
Emergency medical responders (EMRs) are trained in skills to provide immediate lifesaving care for critical patients. Typically, responders can provide on-scene interventions but do not act as the primary caregiver. These EMRs may be members of a volunteer fire department, part of law enforcement, medical reserve corp volunteers or members of an industry response team. Licensure as an EMR requires completion of an accredited training program.
Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) conduct basic, noninvasive interventions to help save lives and reduce harm at emergency sites. They can do everything a responder does, plus they have the skills needed to transport patients safely. In many places, EMTs provide the majority of out-of-hospital care. To be licensed as an EMT, you must take an accredited course.
Advanced emergency medical technicians do everything emergency medical responders and EMTs do and can also conduct limited advanced and pharmacological interventions. Advanced emergency medical technicians must complete an accredited course to become licensed.
Paramedics are the most skilled emergency responders, trained in and capable to do invasive and pharmacological interventions. Licensure requires successful completion of a nationally accredited paramedic program at the certificate or associate’s degree level.