Rapid response to emergencies can mean the difference between life and death for a patient. Quick action is required to respond to accidents and other life-threatening events. When a medical facility determines a patient would be served better by an expert or special services unit at another hospital, it is crucial that patient transfer be done safely and expediently. Emergency medical technicians are trained to meet these situations.



Automobile accident injuries, heart attacks, near drownings, unscheduled childbirth, poisonings, and gunshot wounds are typical assignments for EMTs. They often work with police and fire departments in response to 911 dispatches. They usually work in teams of two so that one can drive the specially equipped emergency vehicle and the other can care for the patient. Some EMTs work as members of ground or flight specialty critical care teams that transport critically ill or injured patients to hospital trauma centers. Typical responses to emergencies include the following:

  1. Respond to dispatch from 911 operator in safe but expedient manner
  2. Upon arrival at scene, determine the nature and extent of the patient’s condition
  3. Ascertain whether patient has any preexisting conditions
  4. Give appropriate emergency care, following strict rules and guidelines
  5. Radio appropriate medical doctors for advice regarding complicated problems and follow their treatment direction
  6. Treat minor injuries at the scene without transporting patient to hospital
  7. When necessary, transport the patient to a medical facility
  8. Upon arrival at the medical facility, transfer the patient to the emergency department, reporting all observations and care provided to the staff
  9. Replace supplies, check equipment, decontaminate the interior of the ambulance if patient has a contagious disease, and report case to the proper authorities

All EMTs, including those with only basic skills, are trained to open airways, restore breathing, control bleeding, treat for shock, administer oxygen, immobilize fractures, bandage wounds, assist in childbirth, manage emotionally disturbed patients, treat and assist heart attack victims, and give initial care to poison and burn victims.

Special equipment, such as backboards, may be used to immobilize patients before placing them on stretchers and securing them in the ambulance for transport to a medical facility.

EMT-Intermediates (EMT-I) utilize their advanced training in emergencies and can administer intravenous fluids and use defibrillators to give lifesaving shock to a stopped heart.

EMT-Paramedics can provide the most extensive care at the site of an emergency. In addition to all the procedures provided by EMTs with basic training and the EMT-Is, paramedics can administer drugs via oral, intravenous, endotracheal, and intraosseous routes, interpret EKGs, perform endotracheal intubations, and use monitors and other complex equipment. Paramedics with additional critical care training and certification may work on specialty critical care ground or flight teams.

Work Environment

EMTs work both indoors and outdoors in all types of weather. The work is physically strenuous and can be stressful if it involves life-or-death situations. Many people, however, find this career exciting and challenging. Often EMTs are on call for extended periods and work hours may be irregular. EMTs are employed by private ambulance services, municipal fire, police, or rescue squad departments, as well as by hospitals and specialty critical care teams. Many volunteer their services, especially in small communities.

Career Outlook

Employment opportunities for emergency medical technicians are expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations. Advanced training in this area will increase job possibilities.