Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics are the men and women who show up “at the scene” whenever emergency medical care is called in. Although you may not immediately be able to identify a paramedic vs EMT, you have likely met one, or both, of these lifesavers during an emergency situation of your own.
If not, you have undoubtedly seen these pros work their magic as you've passed by an accident on the road, or watched them in a television series or movie. Dr. Dreamy, on ER, and the Good Doctor both depend on the work of EMTs and paramedics every week. They are the emergency care providers that respond to 911 calls and rush survivors to the hospital after minimizing their pain or, in many cases, saving their lives before placing them in the hands of physicians and surgeons.
How Do You Tell The Difference?
On the surface, it seems these two uniformed professionals are providing the same care, but just as there are differences between a doctor and nurse, a nurse and physician's assistant, a dentist and oral surgeon, there are also distinct differences between a paramedic vs ENT.
Why They Are Easy To Confuse
There are so many similarities between an EMT and a paramedic that it can be a challenge to identify one from the other. Just as they are both certified to transfer patients, EMTs and paramedics perform many of the same procedures, but both cannot perform all the same procedures on patients. Each state, and sometimes city and even county, has its own rules for emergency patient care, with a list of services allowed by caregivers holding specific certifications. Still, the many basics of what the paramedic vs EMT both do can make it difficult to tell them apart.
Let's start with the EMT, as that is where paramedics and many physicians, nurses, and firefighters begin their career training; this explanation might be the best distinction to define the role of paramedic vs EMT.
What Is An EMT?
An EMT, or emergency medical technician, is the first step in many medical careers. As defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, an EMT is "a specially trained medical technician certified to provide basic emergency services (such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation) before and during transportation to a hospital." Although the initial step for many entering the medical field, the EMT is a trained medical professional in his/her own right, crucial to the system for getting emergency victims to medical facilities for more complex or specialized treatment.
The Certification Process
It is a requirement that a candidate complete approximately six months of part-time training before becoming an EMT. During this period, a candidate will learn basic life-saving skills: how to dress wounds, administer a limited amount of emergency medications, perform CPR, treat burns, and stabilize a fracture.
In most states, an EMT becomes certified by passing a test administered by the National Registry of EMTs. State rules may vary, but the certification is consistent, always geared toward insuring the candidate has the proper training and tools to handle a majority of emergency situations.
On The Job Responsibilities
Once certified, the basic EMT can perform many vital duties at the scene of an emergency. Not only does the EMT drive the emergency vehicle, but he or she can open blocked airways, administer oxygen, apply first aid, and perform more advanced procedures under the supervision of other medical professionals at the scene.
Some EMTs earn certifications that allow them to administer intravenous fluids and shock patients in heart distress with the use of defibrillators. Now that you have the facts about the job of EMT, it will be easier to understand what distinguishes the paramedic vs EMT.
What Is A Paramedic?
A paramedic is the highest level of pre-hospital care providers. To understand the role of a paramedic vs EMT, it is first necessary to know that to become a paramedic, a candidate must first be an EMT and often be on the job for a required period of time before they can enroll in paramedic training.
The Certification Process
Not only is every paramedic candidate required to be certified as an EMT, but a number of paramedic vs EMT programs require the completion of applicable college-level courses as part of the paramedic training. Once admitted to a program, the paramedic curriculum is quite intensive and can take a participant between one and two years to complete. The additional hours and courses of study that result in paramedic certification not only elevate the emergency care provider's status, but expand his/her list of care they can provide.
On The Job Responsibilities
There are many more advanced procedures that can be performed by a paramedic vs EMT. A paramedic has the training to treat a wide range of minor, and some not so minor, injuries. A paramedic is also authorized to diagnose many conditions and administer a wide range of medications, both through IV (intravenously) or by mouth.
The paramedic has received extensive training in advanced cardiac life support that allows them to perform such complex life-saving procedures as endotracheal intubations and manual heart stimulation. The paramedic certification clears them to read and analyze an electrocardiogram (EKG) test.
Paramedics In High Demand
The skills learned as part of paramedic training add to the demand for paramedics to be at the scene of every emergency, whether it be an accident, a stroke victim, a woman in labor experiencing signs of distress, or any of the unknown variables that can arise in every crisis. Often, the ability to administer medications to relieve pain is crucial; the added benefit of cardiac experience and the ability to open a breathing passage can mean the difference between life and death.
Paramedic Vs EMT | Differences
After reviewing the 120-150 hours of training to become an EMT and the 1200-1800 hours of schooling the paramedic must complete, the line between what defines a paramedic vs EMT becomes clear. The overall difference between the two is the paramedic has gained a deeper knowledge of cardiology, anatomy, physiology, and biology as part of their educational program.
They have gained an understanding about many medications and their proper application. This depth of knowledge and practical experience that has earned them a paramedic certification allows the paramedic to administer complex life-saving procedures the EMT can not.
Skin In The Game
Another, more simple explanation for what defines a paramedic vs EMT is the EMT is restricted to giving care that does not involve breaking the patient's skin. For instance, an EMT can supply oxygen or an inhaler, but an EMT can not perform an endotracheal intubation (as a paramedic can) in the case an individual is not able to breathe after the first non-invasive solutions fail to work.
Where a paramedic can administer between 30-40 different medications, an EMT is much more limited in the medications they are authorized to give to a patient.
Paramedic Vs EMT Salary Distinction
We have identified the differences that distinguish these two professionals in terms of what they can and cannot do, depending on their certification status. We have also learned that it takes many more hours to become a paramedic vs EMT; a commitment of months as opposed to years, with more training, advanced science courses, and experience on the job.
The difference in capabilities also affects the salaries earned by these two similar, yet distinct professions. An EMT's yearly income averages between $33,000 and $51,000 for top earners. Paramedics earn about $40,000 annually to start, but can make as much as $70,000, or more, depending on experience and the state or institution that employs them. If you are considering becoming a paramedic vs EMT, time invested in training, and potential income, are both things to consider when weighing your options.
Medical careers are noble professions, whether an individual has chosen to serve his/her community in the role of a physician, nurse, emergency medical technician, or paramedic. Helping others in distress is highly rewarding work and both the EMT and paramedic are in high demand.
In most instances where an EMT or paramedic is on the scene, the other is right there beside them; often there are several EMTs and paramedics working together. This alone can make it hard to determine exactly what the paramedic vs EMT is doing while in the heat of providing care at the site of an accident or other type of emergency.
Should you find yourself in a situation in which you need help, and you can't exactly define the roles of the uniformed rescue team that shows up, you can always ask. However, in understanding the differences between a paramedic vs EMT, one must also consider the many capabilities they have in common.
The most important thing to know is EMTs and paramedics, though they have their differences, are both highly trained and certified professionals who have only your best interest—and good health—in mind. Both these care providers do just that: provide care. So, either way, you can feel confident you're in great hands.