What is a medical first responder?

Emergency medical technicians and paramedics are considered first responders. When there is any type of emergency needing medical assistance, you’ll be one of the first to the scene, along with firefighters and police if the emergency calls for them. Your quick and competent actions can help save lives.

What your duties will include:

  • Respond to any type of 911 call needing medical backup: Accidents, heart attacks, and natural disasters are just some of the scenes you’ll attend.
  • Assess the patient to decide what type of treatment is needed.
  • Depending on the severity of the condition, perform first aid or provide life support.
  • Safely take the patient to the hospital or other medical facility.
  • Meet with the medical team to bring them up to date on the patient’s condition.
  • Keep documentation on your actions.
  • Make sure the ambulance’s supplies are stocked.
  • Clean and sterilize all the equipment used.

The amount of responsibilities you have will be based on what level of certification you have.

  • EMR: You can provide the most basic of medical care with minimal equipment. You provide immediate care prior to other emergency medical service providers arriving at the scene.
  • EMT or EMT Basic: You are trained to assess the patient’s condition and provide proper life-saving treatment. You work on the scene, as well as in the back of the ambulance.
  • Advanced EMT or EMT-Intermediate: You’re a more advanced level of EMT and can start IVs and give some meds.
  • Paramedics: The most advanced level of first responders, you can perform EMTs’ duties, as well as perform and read EKGs, and administer medications both through an IV and orally.

The state you work in will determine what duties you can actually perform at any level of first responder.

How can I become a first responder?

Every single state will require you to be licensed, but each state may have varying requirements. To become a first responder, you’ll need to:

  • Get your high school diploma or GED.
  • Have a CPR certification.
  • EMR, EMT-Basic and -Intermediate all require a certificate, which can take up to a year to complete.
    • EMR and EMT-Basic: 150 hours of instruction
    • Advanced EMT: 400 hours of instruction
  • To become a paramedic, you’ll need to already be certified as an EMT, and you’ll have to get an associate’s degree, which will take two years or 1,200 hours of instruction.
  • Once you’ve completed your training, you’ll test for the appropriate certification through the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT).
  • After you’ve passed the NREMT exam, you can apply for the state-required license.
  • In some states, you’ll need a separate license to drive the emergency vehicle. Training lasts 8 hours.

Take our free NREMT practice test.

How much will I earn as a first responder?

The median salary for first responders is over $32K. However, pay ranges between $21K-$56K. Many first responders end up working more than the typical 40-hour work week. Not uncommon are 12-24 hour shifts, but that usually means you work four days per week instead of five. You won’t be a stranger to nights and weekends on the job, because that’s part of the career.

Are there jobs available?

Job are on the rise for the first responder occupation. Employment growth is expected to be 15 percent, or 37,400 jobs becoming available, through 2026. This is due to the population expanding, meaning more accidents and health emergencies, especially as the baby boomers age.

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