How to Become an EMT

Are you interested in becoming an EMT? As an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), your primary responsibility is to provide care for medically ill and traumatically injured patients in both emergency and non-emergency situations. A career as an EMT can be very rewarding and allows you to work in various settings. For instance, EMT’s can work on an ambulance, as a firefighter, in the hospital, or even for a company that provides first aid services at events. The steps below outline the entire process on how to become an EMT. Please note, there might be some variations depending on the state in which you live.

Step 1: CPR Certification

As a first step, you’ll need to obtain your CPR certification. This is a requirement for the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) and might also be a prerequisite for your EMT class. There are a few levels of CPR certification and it’s extremely important you select the correct one. For instance, you need to be trained at the level of basic life support (BLS) or healthcare provider (sometimes referred to as professional rescuer).

It is recommended you obtain your CPR certification through one of the following agencies:

  • American Red Cross
  • CPR Certification Course: First Aid, CPR, AED for Professional Rescuers

Step 2: EMT Certification

EMT Courses are typically offered at most junior colleges and take approximately one semester to complete. Some colleges or businesses offer accelerated programs; however, this is not recommended. You want to ensure you have enough time to thoroughly understand all of the concepts and skills. EMT Courses consist of a didactic (classroom) portion, clinical rotations and practical skill labs. The classroom portion is a minimum of 110 instructional hours with the following curriculum:

  • Preparatory: Introduction to emergency medical care, legal and ethical issues, anatomy, baseline vital signs, and SAMPLE history
  • Airway: Airway management, ventilation and oxygen therapy
  • Medical: Pharmacology, medical emergencies and obstetrics
  • Patient Assessment: Scene size-up, initial assessment, focused history, detailed physical exam, communications and documentation
  • Trauma: Bleeding control, shock treatment, soft tissue and musculoskeletal injuries
  • Infants and Children: Abuse, anatomy, development and respiratory emergencies
  • Operations: Ambulance operations, gaining access and extrication

The clinical rotations are typically one ride-along with either an ambulance or fire department and one shift in an emergency room. At the end of the course, you’ll need to successfully pass a psychomotor exam, which consists of 10 practical skills.

Step 3: NREMT Certification

Once you have your EMT course completion certificate you can apply for the NREMT. In most cases, the place where you completed your EMT certification will help you start the application process. The NREMT has specific entry requirements, but primarily you’ll need to provide proof that you’re CPR certified and completed a state-approved EMT course and psychomotor exam. Once your application has been approved, the NREMT will send you instructions on how to schedule an appointment to take their cognitive exam. After successfully completing the cognitive exam, the NREMT will send you a certificate and you’re now registered as an EMT at the national level.

Step 4: Register with your State EMS Agency

After receiving your NREMT certificate you need to register with your state EMS agency to work as an EMT. You should also check with your city or county if you need to register with them as well. If so, you might need to provide proof of your NREMT certification and pay a registration fee.

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