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Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics assess injuries and illnesses, provide emergency medical care, and may transport patients to medical facilities.
When transporting a patient in an ambulance, one EMT or paramedic may drive the ambulance while another monitors the patient’s vital signs and gives additional care. Some paramedics work as part of a helicopter’s or an airplane’s flight crew to transport critically ill or injured patients to a hospital.
In addition to transporting patients from the scene of an emergency, EMTs and paramedics transfer patients from one medical facility to another. Some patients may need to be transferred to a hospital that specializes in treating their particular injury or illness or to a facility that provides long-term care, such as a nursing home.
The specific responsibilities of EMTs and paramedics depend on their level of certification and the state in which they work. EMTs and paramedics sometimes begin with emergency medical responder (EMR) certification and advance to other levels of certification as they gain competency. The following are some of the duties at each of these EMT or paramedic certification levels.
An EMT, also known as an EMT-Basic, cares for patients at the scene of an incident and while taking patients by ambulance to a hospital. An EMT has the skills to assess a patient’s condition and to manage respiratory, cardiac, and trauma emergencies.
An Advanced EMT, also known as an EMT-Intermediate, has completed the requirements for the EMT level, as well as instruction in more advanced medical procedures, such as administering intravenous fluids and some medications.
Paramedics provide more extensive prehospital care than do EMTs. In addition to doing the tasks of EMTs, they are able to administer a wider range of medications, such as through intravenous methods. Paramedics also perform advanced airflow management and interpret electrocardiograms (EKGs)—which monitor heart function—and other types of equipment.