As the careers of emergency responders have become a hot topic throughout Hollywood, appearing in such popular shows as Chicago Med, Grey’s Anatomy, Chicago Fire, and Chicago PD, the roll of EMTs and Paramedics have gained considerable attention. In many cases, they are first on the scene. Uniformed, trained responders who just to the aid of those injured in accidents, hurt during natural disasters, or suffering from various medical conditions. They hop out of ambulances and off fire trucks to save the lives of those in need. They can be seen in life star helicopters and throughout the hospital halls jumping in to rescue someone from a life-threatening situation. So, the question that many ask is, what is the difference between EMTs and Paramedics? Or, are they the same?

Entry Level Emergency Response Positions

The difference between EMTS and Paramedics is mostly to do with education and the scope of their practice, or the degree of care they can administer. Although both positions have the knowledge and skills to transport patients and provide emergency care, their levels of certification and hours in training vary considerably.

EMT certification is considered the entry level certification of emergency responders. While it is still an intense course that requires responders to have adequate training to jump into action in an emergency setting, emergency medical technicians are limited in the treatment they can provide to patients during pre-hospital care. All EMT education and training is the foundation for any emergency responder position. Without the basic skills learned when becoming certified to be an EMT, providers who have higher certifications wouldn’t be able to perform the basic, yet important, measures to save a life.

Most EMT courses require between 120 and 150 hours of education. This includes lectures, hands-on skills, training, clinical, and field internships. Many people use the EMT position as a stepping stone into higher positions in the field of emergency response, such as becoming a Paramedic. The basic level life support performed by EMTs includes:
  • Taking vital signs
  • Bandaging and splinting
  • Spinal immobilization
  • CPR
  • Administering Oxygen
  • Administering glucose for diabetics
  • Treating asthma
  • Tending to allergic reactions
Anything beyond these basic types of treatment limits an EMTs ability to provide care. Since they are not allowed to break skin, tending to some types of allergic reaction and administering needles is not allowed.Advancing to a ParamedicBecoming a Paramedic takes a lot more training than finishing the EMT course. While EMTs have 120-150 hours of training, Paramedics have anywhere from 1200 to 1800 hours of training. A Paramedic’s training doesn’t only involve an increase in hours, they are highly educated in topics such as:
  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Cardiology
  • Medication
  • Medical procedures
Paramedics undergo an additional six to twelve months of education. In addition to being able to perform all the medical assistance of an EMT, Paramedics can:
  • Administer IVs
  • Administer medications
  • Perform airway management
  • Resuscitate patients
  • Address heart attacks
  • Deal with trauma
Additionally, Paramedics are required to maintain all their licensed healthcare professional training. They undergo extensive pre-hospital advanced life support education. Besides their college based education, they add in 500 hours of field training. Once they are licensed, Paramedics maintain their training in such courses as:
  • Advanced Cardiac Life Support
  • Pediatric Advanced Life Support
  • Neonatal Resuscitation Programs
  • Pre-Hospital Trauma Life Support
  • Critical Care
  • Flight Paramedic Training
Whether looking at the career of an EMT or Paramedic, while the training and positions are different, both are noble professions. To run into an emergency scene, while others are running away, is a true sign of heroism. And whether you have extensive training, or basic, entry level training, it takes a special person to do the job.