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How to Become a Paramedic?

Are you looking for an exciting and challenging profession that’s all about helping people when they need it most? If so, perhaps you should consider a career as a paramedic.

Once you are qualified, being a paramedic can provide a deep sense of pride and purpose that you’ll get from giving aid to injured people in a whole host of unfortunate situations. There’s also the opportunity to work alongside a number of different emergency services, in an area of employment that’s expected to grow steadily over the next decade.

So, if you’re wondering about How to Become a Paramedic? By the end of this article, you’ll be fully equipped to answer this question and hopefully, have more of an idea if it’s a good fit for you.

Firstly, I’ll define exactly what a paramedic is and the role they play in emergency medical care. I’ll then look at the essential skills you’ll need to possess, followed by the steps and criteria necessary to get fully qualified.

how to become a paramedic

What Is A Paramedic?

Paramedics are highly trained health care professionals who provide the first line of emergency response when dealing with injured or critically ill patients. Being the first to arrive at the scene of an emergency, their main responsibility is to provide the care necessary to stabilize the patient so they can be transported to the nearest medical facility.

Paramedic teams will have a minimum of two people, one driving the ambulance and the other providing the medical care in transit.

Getting you to the hospital!

Once at the medical facility, the hospital staff take over, and the paramedics are either back out on another call or waiting for their next assignment. In busy urban areas, the vast majority of their time will be spent on the road.

Paramedics can also be employed in other emergency services outside of standard ambulances, aiding firefighters or the coast guard, for example. With the right training, they can find themselves employed in helicopter or air response units.

how to become paramedic

The Duties Of A Paramedic

Paramedics have a number of typical responsibilities. Most obviously, they have to initially assess a patient’s condition and then provide the emergency treatment needed at the scene. This can involve anything from pain relief, stitching wounds, and intravenous injections, to helping women give birth.

In the most serious cases, paramedics have to know how to administer CPR and are required to know how to use lifesaving equipment such as defibrillators and ventilators.

Communication means life or death…

Their job doesn’t end with the delivery of the patient to the hospital. Communicating the details of a patient’s condition and the drugs or treatment they’ve received to hospital staff, are also integral parts of the job. This information will also have to be logged in reports for each case.

Driving an ambulance will be a requirement for most paramedics. They are also responsible for the maintenance of all onboard equipment and the restocking of any depleted medical supplies. As you can see, it’s a multi-faceted career that requires a lot of training.

But before we delve into that, let’s examine the personal qualities you’ll need for the job.

Personal Qualities You’ll Need

  • A career as a paramedic requires a number of essential skills. Firstly, the ability to stay calm in high-pressure situations is vital. If you’re the kind of person that falls apart in stressful situations, becoming a paramedic probably isn’t for you.
  • The ability to think quickly in unpredictable situations is also a must. Patients must be assessed and treated with as little delay as possible.
  • Paramedics are also required to stay physically fit and strong. Patients often need to be lifted onto a stretcher as efficiently as possible, and people aren’t getting any smaller.
  • Highly developed interpersonal skills are required. You’ll be interacting with patients and those around them who are often highly upset. The ability to provide emotional support and empathize is essential.
  • Without highly developed communication skills, a paramedic won’t be able to do the job properly. They’ll need to be able to listen effectively to patients to gather the information necessary for correct diagnoses and treatment. Clear communication with their fellow paramedics and hospital staff can also make the difference between life and death in some cases.

The Steps

If you still want to become a paramedic, you’ll need to follow these steps and fulfill certain criteria along the way.

Be educated to a high school diploma or GED level

You’ll have to have completed high school before being accepted onto any training programs. It will be helpful but not essential if you have taken classes in biology or human anatomy.

A good grasp of basic math will also be needed as a paramedic. A basic grounding in psychology will also be of use when it comes to dealing with distraught patients and families. Staying physically fit throughout high school is also important. There’s a reason you don’t see any portly paramedics.

Early experience helps (optional)

Experience as a lifeguard will give you hands-on practice dealing with people in emergencies. You will also learn relevant skills such as CPR and how to stay calm under stress.

To get a real idea of a day in the life of a paramedic, many ambulance services will allow interested candidates to participate in ride-along programs. There is no better way of understanding the job than to see paramedics in action. You’ll have to be a minimum of 16 to 18 years old and follow any instructions, including keeping well out of the way in emergencies.

CPR certification

Most paramedic courses include CPR certification as part of the training. Others require you to have completed this step before accepting you on their course. Check your local state rules before applying. There are a number of organizations that offer CPR training, including the American Red Cross and the American Heart Association.

how to become the paramedic

A driving license

To be accepted to a paramedic training course, you’ll need a valid driving license. Try and have as clean a driving record as possible. It will vary slightly between the emergency services as to what driving infringements they’ll accept on your record. Check with the agency you’re applying to for details.

You’ll be required to complete a specialized two-day course to learn the ins and outs of driving an ambulance as part of your training.

Pass medical requirements and a physical examination

You’ll have to undergo a check-up to show that you are up to the demands of the job and that there are no physical conditions that might stop you from performing the active duties of a paramedic.

You’ll have to prove that you’re up to date with vaccines for measles, mumps, rubella, and Hepatitis B. Pass a drug test and possibly a screening for tuberculosis.

Successfully pass a background check

Background checks may be part of the application process, depending on your state. You will certainly have to pass one when you’re qualified and trying to get licensed.

Criminal convictions don’t necessarily stop you from becoming a paramedic. Individual states make their own rules as to what constitutes a serious enough crime to deny licensing. Full disclosure of any convictions is the only way as they will be discovered.

Very few exceptions…

You’ve got little to no chance of being licensed if you have convictions for serious assault, sexual assault, child abuse, or abuse of the elderly. Theft or burglary may disqualify you too. However, depending on the crime, if it was a long way back and you can prove your rehabilitation via references from appropriate sources, you may be considered.

Complete EMT Training

The first step in training to become a paramedic is to complete a program in Emergency Medical Technology. Various institutions offer these, and they generally don’t take more than six months to complete. You have to be 18 years old to take the basic EMT certification exam, although, in some states, you can enroll as young as 16. Either way, you can’t receive certification until you’re 18.

EMT Training and certification must be completed before you can move on to the more advanced paramedic training. The National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) handles EMT certification. Their examination involves passing a multiple-choice test and a psychomotor (technical skills) exam.

The written exam will have up to 120 multiple choice questions, testing your knowledge in five key areas:

  • Airway, Ventilation, and Respiration.
  • Trauma.
  • Cardiology and Resuscitation.
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology.
  • EMS Operations.

If you fail the test the first time, you get another two attempts to pass as long as they are at least 15 days apart. The psychomotor exam will assess the basic practical abilities you’ve learned in the course. This will include things like bleeding control, joint immobilization, and patient assessment skills.

how to become paramedic guide

Gain work experience

Some paramedic training programs will not accept you onto the course unless you have six months to a year of working as an EMT. It’s advisable to do this regardless of whether your course requires it. The experience will prepare you well for paramedic training.

Paramedic certification

Once you’re officially EMT certified, it’s time to complete one of the many paramedic training programs available. Your course has to have been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).

This will cost you up to $15,000 and take roughly two years to finish. Throughout that time, you’ll have to complete around 1200 to 1500 hours of training.

It’s worth it in the end!

Training includes a far broader scope than basic EMT courses. You’ll become IV (intravenous injections) certified, get certifications in things like Advanced Cardiac Life Support and Pre-Hospital Trauma Life Support, among others. Physiology and Advanced Human Anatomy classes are often required, as are math, English, and biology classes up to the college level.

At the end of all that, you’ll have to pass another cognitive multiple-choice exam of up to 150 questions and another in-depth psychomotor skill exam. Simulate scenarios will test your practical paramedic skills, including patient and team management. Your communication skills will also be assessed.

Get a state license

After receiving your paramedic certification, you’ll still need a license from the state you plan to work in. Normally, your paramedic certificate will be sufficient, but some states require you to pass an extra exam before issuing a license.

At this point, you’re fully qualified and ready to go. Depending on the state, you will be required to recertify every two or three years.

Need To Pass Your EMT Exams?

Most importantly is passing your EMT Training; for that, I recommend using the EMT Book 2022-2023 – NREMT Study Guide Secrets Test Prep, Full-Length Practice Exam, the EMT National Training EMT Practice Questions & Study Guide, and the NREMT Study Guide 2022-2023: 480 Test Questions and Detailed Answer Explanations for the EMT Cognitive Exam for your exam prep.

As well as the EMT Flashcard Book, 4th Ed. (EMT Test Preparation), the EMT Exam Prep: Focused Prep for the NREMT Cognitive Exam, the EMT Study Guide: Exam Prep Book with Practice Test Questions for the NREMT Examination, and the EMT Crash Course with Online Practice Test, which are all available online in 2022.

And in regards to handbooks for help excelling in your career, try reading Medical Terminology: The Best and Most Effective Way to Memorize, Pronounce and Understand Medical Term, the Emergency Care and Transportation of the Sick and Injured, the book of Emergency Care (EMT), and the Basic Life Support Provider Manual – A Comprehensive Guide Covering the Latest Guidelines to keep you up to date!

For an all-in-one, audible study box set, check out the EMT Audio Study Guide Audiobook Bundle!: Complete A-Z Review & Practice Questions Edition Box Set!.

Final Thoughts

So now you know all the steps required to become a paramedic. It’s no walk in the park, and the level of pay isn’t exactly what you’d call stratospheric, but as far as challenging and exciting jobs go, it’s near the top of the list.

If none of this has put you off, make inquiries now, and a potentially fulfilling career as a paramedic will be your reward.

All the very best working as a Paramedic!

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About Carmen Smith

Carmen grew up in San Diago but now lives in Boston. She loves traveling, experiencing other cultures, and basically exploring the world, be country at a time.

Her other passion is helping people find the perfect career. We spend 33% of our working lives at work, so it's ridiculous that many people do jobs that they do not enjoy. Carmen wants to change this and thinks that anyone who isn't happy in their employment should keep looking until they find something that they really enjoy. 

She firmly believes that "Everyone's perfect job is out there; it's just a case of continually looking until you find it."

Carmen lives with her husband Johnny, a keen birder who also loves to travel. He finds birds while Carmen makes plans for where they will be eating next...

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