I am an Athletic Trainer, EMT, and fire fighter. I recently completed my EMT and wanted to build off of that and become a paramedic. I had no idea what I was getting my family and myself into. It sounded so easy, only 13 months and no more than two days a week with class being from 8am to 12pm. Not bad huh? Well like everything else in my life it’s never as easy as it originally sounds.
Paramedic school is in short advanced emergency medicine. Paramedics are the first people to give someone life saving medical attention. Let me repeat that: “Life saving medical attention”. Talk about a stressful statement when you stop and think about it. Para-medicine came about during the Napoleonic wars and was changed and updated with every other war that happened throughout history. In fact, much of the techniques we use today were perfected on the battlefields during the fighting. In 1865 the first civilian ambulance service was formed. In 1966 Congress passed the National Highway Safety Act which gave grants to states for development of emergency medical services. In 1971 the White House gave 9 million dollars to EMS model demonstration projects, and in 1977 the first Paramedic curriculum was founded. New medications get dumped into the para medicine field monthly, so the Paramedics continuing education is vital to the lives of our loved ones. I can promise you paramedics are frequently practicing their skills. There is a lot to know and even more you can forget if you stop learning and practicing.
My personal journey with Para-Medicine was a total of thirteen months, which is equal to 1000 hours of classroom work. To put that number into perspective, a full time job is 2080 annually. I also have a total of 648 hours of clinicals to do. These clinical consist of: 6 twelve hour ER shifts, 3 eight hour OR shifts, 2 twelve hour OB shifts, 1 eight hour Psychiatric floor shift, 1 eight hour Respiratory Therapy shift, 4 eight hour physician shadowing shifts, 32 twelve hour ambulance shifts, and finally 60 hours of summative, which is where we run the entire call by ourselves from start to finish. Now each paramedic class is different but they all have to meet the state guidelines. My class in particular received an AMLS (advanced medical life support) license, ACLS (advanced cardiac life support) license, PHTLS (pre-hospital trauma life support) license, and PALS (pediatrics advanced life support) license. After the classroom hours are done and clinical hours are in the books, you have to pass a national certification test. This test is made up of two parts done at two different times. First is the practical portion of the test which consists of twelve different stations ranging from IV administration to intubation, and may include three different oral stations. The last part is a written exam which is a multiple choice test designed to test you in every aspect of Para-Medicine.
Throughout the process of becoming a paramedic, I have learned to have a much deeper appreciation for anyone who works in the EMS field, not just because the long hard winding road they took to get there, but for their ability to thrive in an environment where most people would cringe and look away. Paramedics must face these situations each day. My advice to anyone who wants to enter this field is to make sure you have a great support system at home, be able to think fast on your feet, have steady hands, and a strong stomach.
Joe Bommarito BS, ATC, LAT, firefighter/paramedic