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[Sep. 22nd, 2009|03:39 pm]


hey all - I'm wondering if you could give me some information about becoming an EMT.

I'm working right now as a live-in PCA for two disabled individuals (one with epilepsy, the other with a heart condition.)  this summer I finished a basic nursing course and was going to continue into a two year ADN-RN program but withdrew, in good standing, and moved to Massachusetts instead, where I'm considering what I want to do next.

I've sat through a few minor seizures with my friend, recently, and being a PCA is rewarding and all, but I really hate feeling impotent in the face of an emergency.  if someone has a serious problem I want to know what to do, and be able to do it.  I expressed the desire along with an interest in wilderness medicine to a nursing forum a while back, and was told to look into EMT/Paramedic training.  at the time I figured I'd just stick to nursing, but since I'm now in a new state and starting over, I want to investigate EMT training as well.

what does it take to be a good EMT?  I'm not naturally some kind of adrenaline junkie, my temperment is probably closer to that of a therapist than anything.  I found the pass-perfectly or fail-and-get-kicked-out tests in my one semester of (pre) nursing school stressful, though I did pass all of them, got my BLS certification and was all set to move on to clinicals this semester had I not moved instead.  I'm motivated by wanting to help people, be useful, and be respected - I would just as soon not be thrilled, honestly.  does that say anything about whether or not I should look into the EMT thing more?

also, question:  they train you to hell and try to shock you a lot before you're actually given responsibility, right?  if it's something that I can look into and see if I'm cut out for, that's great, but I don't want to be in a situation where I'd find out I can't handle it and I've got someone's health or life on the line.


input from anyone regarding whether or not there is an "EMT personality" and whether I have it or not would be appreciated, and specific information about programs in western massachusetts would be especially wonderful.

[User Picture]From: k7point5
2009-09-22 10:16 pm (UTC)
Hi, well to be a good EMT I think you have to have a built in sense for caring for others, which you already have if you are a live-in PCA. Second, you must be able to stay cool and calm and remember how to do your job even if the world is crashing down around you. When I arrive on scene I need to quickly assess all of the patients, figure out which is the most critical, get that person stabilized and packaged and on an ambulance, and then move down the line. You need to be able to communicate well and have at least some level of reasonable bedside manners. Although you do not deal with extended patient care, you are the first person to get to them after a very traumatic event and your treatment of them really makes a difference.

You need to be able to be firm but kind. Some people are obnoxious pain in the asses but you still need to provide the same level of care and kindness to them as you would a sweet little 5 year old child.

Unfortunately I feel like EMT's are the least respected members of the emergency response community (police, fire, ems). You need to be able to hold your own. YOU are the medical professional on scene, not a fireman. Most of the times you won't have a problem but then once in a while you may come across another first responder who feels like they need to run the scene even on the medical side, and they're not even an EMT. Just be polite and professional, but firm, and you should be fine.

Personally I am the exact kind of person who you would not expect to be an EMT. I'm petite, female, kind of goofy, an artist, and I might seem a little ditzy. But actually I am very driven, very quick, I care deeply about my patients welfare even if they are trying to kill me and/or themselves, and I strive to provide the best care to everyone. I was involved in a terrible car accident when I was younger where my mum almost died, and the EMT who cared for me that day made such an impression on me. He was so gentle and calming to me even as my mum was screaming in pain in the background...it really made the whole thing so much easier to grasp for me. You do as much mental and emotional first aid as you do physical first aid. If you are naturally someone whom friends seek out to ask advice and talk to, you would be great at this job.

EMS is something I do on the side. I work for the University of Rhode Island, where I also went to school, and I still volunteer for them. I have also worked for a private company on the weekends doing BLS transports, which I hated as much as I loved. It was totally mundane and boring but I had a lot of free time at base where I could just hang out and watch movies or work on client work for my graphic design business, and who doesn't love getting paid $14/hr to watch movies? I do not think I would be happy doing this full time, and I also have a really bad back (as a result of that accident) so I cannot pick up heavy people all day long without having to recuperate from it for a few days, hence why I can only do this part time.

I am originally from MA and have my MA EMT license but I also am Nationally certified, along with having my RI license. In typical MA fashion, they do not accept National certification and you must test out with their own little EMT test. I took my class in RI, got my National first, and then challenged the MA test. You as a MA resident would need to take the class there and if you wanted your national license, challenge the national test afterwards. If you do it in a certain time frame you do not need to do the practical, only the written. If you want more info about that let me know.

UMASS Amherst has a pretty decent programme, and beyond that, if you call most fire departments they should be able to give you information about local classes. I am from north central MA so I'm not familiar with any of the classes in your area but I know there are a few around there.

Hopefully that helps. I would really recommend finding an EMS organization that will let you ride with them. Most places will let you do this as long as you have a CPR cert, and it's a great way to see if you like it.
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[User Picture]From: k7point5
2009-09-22 10:25 pm (UTC)

more rambling..

One more thing, I forgot to answer your question about being shocked before tossed into the "real world". My answer would be no. There are two educations you must get as an EMT: classroom to pass the test, and field to keep people alive. Even when I was going through my EMT class, my instructor would always say "if you get a question about this on the test, answer this way, but if you have to deal with it in real life, do it this way." It really all comes down to looking at the situation at hand, and treating the patient in the best way for him/her. Sometimes you are going to have to be a bit unorthodox but as long as you can back yourself up and the patient benefits from it, you will be fine. You will learn all about that in class, though.

Personally I had to grow up real quick when I started actually practicing as an EMT in the field. There is only so much a classroom setting can prepare you for. I had to do ten hours of hospital time but I was not required to do any ridealong time...seems pretty dumb to me. Luckily I had been volunteering for URI all along so I was at least somewhat prepared, and I would consider what we do in a college setting to be relatively fluffy compared to what a city EMS company would do.

Also I took a quick peek at your journal and saw you were interested in wilderness rescue. There are additional classes you can take where you get a certification in Wilderness rescue. I never took one, maybe someone else can chime in with more info. I went to the NCEMSF conference when I was in school and someone from NOLS http://www.nols.edu/wmi/ came and talked to us about their WEMT programme and it looked awesome. They are out in Wyoming and you spend time actually out in the wilderness training for x amount of days. It looked like it would be very interesting.
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From: xlotusxseekerx
2009-12-09 04:30 am (UTC)
Interesting response. I am a graphic designer looking to make a career switch to EMT! I love design, and am an artist in all ways, but working 9-5 in the art field is killing my soul. I've always loved medicine and have a gross-out response of zero, so I am thinking EMT is a good career for me. I know it won't pay as much as I make now, but my peace of mind and the satisfaction of knowing I am actually making a difference in someone's life will balance that out, I hope.

Nice to run into another artist/EMT combo!
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[User Picture]From: brendo
2009-09-23 02:46 am (UTC)
YOU are the medical professional on scene, not a fireman.

Except when the fireman is a paramedic, in which case the EMT becomes a stretcher fetcher. Not common, but it happens. ;-)

Other than that, I agree with my friend Kate. EMT class teaches you skills. And monkey-see-monkey do skills at that. It doesn't teach you how hold the hand of a woman dying from cancer, any more than it teaches you how to remove an MVC victim from a car..... that's on it's roof.

It doesn't teach you how to deal with death and dismemberment live and in person- the pictures in the book are just that. It doesn't even teach you wound care worth a damn.

Don't think for one second that you'll be ready. And yeah, you might not be the kind of person who can handle it all. But unfortunately, there's really no way of knowing that ahead of time. Third rider time helps, but there's a lot of on the job training in this field. Probably... no, certainly, too much. Especially for EMT-Bs. Unfortunately, that's the EMS world we live in right now.

That sounded pretty heavy. People will probably jump on here telling me I'm being a downer, discouraging new people, whatever. I just happen to have a very realistic outlook on this job, and some people take that for cynicism or, worse, burnout.

But they're probably the same types of people that can't wait for NBC's new show Trauma, and therefore aren't worth listening to anyway. ;-)
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[User Picture]From: eljamie
2009-09-23 09:09 pm (UTC)
Agreed entirely.

And as for the personality/character questions, you'll find that good medics aren't adrenaline junkies, rather the calm and composed straight-thinker on the scene. The adrenaline junkie medics are, not always, but typically, the ones who get flustered and panic on dynamic, stressful calls and unfortunately wind up doing the bare minimum and more getting in the way than doing the most they can for the patient.

I started as I was in the same situation as you - I liked helping people and wanted to do the most I possibly could. It's a lot of work to get there but can be incredibly rewarding (but also incredibly frustrating) once you get there - the key to surviving is knowing where you can help and knowing when nothing can help, and not beating yourself up over it.

To address your seizure question specifically: From my experience, you'll most likely have to be an ALS medic (commonly known as EMT-P, I believe...) before you're able to administer anything for seizures. There are many BLS-only services that can do this as well though, so look into services and education programs that are close to you. As for the education programs, my understanding is EMT-B programs in the US range from 2 weeks to 2 years... I'm sure you can understand which teach the bare minimum and which train the best.

And brendo: I hope Trauma will be somewhat accurate! :P
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