What is the difference between a paramedic and an EMT? Which one would be appropriate for the setting my story takes place in?
I have seen shows and read books that mix these two roles up. There is also a third emergency medicine position that can add to the confusion.
The most basic level of emergency medical care outside of the hospital is what was once called the first responder. Emergency Medical Responder or EMR, is the current term being used. The terminology of all people in public safety being first responders was confusing because not all police and firefighters provide medical care, so in 2012 EMR was established.
EMR training can vary by state, but the class lasts between twenty-four to eighty hours. They provide the most basic of life support. CPR, bleeding control and taking baseline vitals such as blood pressure.
In rural communities that do not have full-time ambulance services, EMRs are often volunteers. They respond to scenes via a pager system to start care till an ambulance can arrive. In some towns, all the police officers could also be certified as EMRs.
Emergency Medical Technicians or EMTs are the next levels. Their training can last from 120 to 200 hours. Within the scope of EMT, there are multiple levels.
EMT-B is a basic EMT. They can provide all the same first aid and CPR as an EMR. Their extra skill comes in some of the tools they are allowed to use. Such as placing tubes in mouths or noses to open an airway. They also can provide limited medication to people with asthma, or diabetic reactions.
An AEMT or Advanced EMT is a step up from the EMT-B. The AEMT training can be up to 100 hours added on to the EMT-B class. The extra training allows an EMT to insert an IV needle and administer a limited number of nonnarcotic medications. Each state has their standard for what medication an AEMT can give and if they need a doctor’s order over the phone before giving it.
Suburban and rural ambulance agencies make use of EMTs at both levels. The training is short enough that even someone working only part time can complete the classes in few weeks of night and weekend classwork.
Paramedics receive the highest level of training. The classes run between 1,200 and 2,000 hours long. Due to the length of the courses students are typically full-time college-level learners.
With their skills, paramedics can offer a broad array of drugs including some narcotics. They also can provide advanced airway management and provide aid to trauma patients beyond simple pressure on bleeding.
Given the level of training Paramedics rarely work on a part-time basis. They are employed full time to staff an ambulance. Keep in many in some urban areas all firefighters are certified as paramedics. Thus the role could be a part time assignment within a full-time job.
So the size of the community in your novel will dictate which service level an ambulance is staffed by. EMTs and EMRs can be paid or volunteer. Paramedics will likely be career professionals.