The changing role of a Paramedic

By Jamey Perkins Paramedic

To many people, the term "Paramedic" is synonymous with anyone that may show up with a rescue unit to the aid of those in need. Many simply do not realize that there is a vast difference in education, skill, and responsibility among the varying levels of responders to a scene. A large percentage of people call 911 to request "The Paramedics", not knowing that who actually shows up at an emergency scene may be a basic EMT or even a fire fighter with only First Responder level training.

One possible reason for the diluted meaning of "Paramedic" in the public eye could be because responders work so well together during an emergency situation. Most emergency units carry on somewhat illusive lives, even when on duty. Although they may be easy to spot as they travel through cities with sirens blaring and lights flashing, they are typically not the type of people that display rankings or boast their hierarchy to the public. Even if they did display badges, emblems, or insignias that represented their ranking or level of care, most people would not know the meaning. In fact, the only time that it may be obvious who is a higher rank may be during an emergency situation. The problem is, during those types of situations, many people are focused on the problem at hand, and not necessarily who is making decisions.

EMTs, Paramedics, Firefighters, and First Responders of all levels work together in a well organized harmony during any type of response. Although all responders to a situation clearly know who is making the decisions, it may not be obvious to on-lookers, because even high ranking officials are usually part of the rescue effort, along side any subordinates.

Paramedics are more than just a ride to the hospital

Emergency medical responders are trained in many different levels. Entry level emergency responders may only have basic CPR training; while more advanced professionals have undergone much more extensive curricular studies. Some services employ personnel trained only for driving an emergency vehicle, and may not have medical training of any type. Other services require basic levels of certification, and may employ medical certification or licensure at an EMT or nursing level.

Paramedics are specially trained individuals. In many states, a Paramedic is actually an EMT with a specialization in Paramedicine. However, in the EMS field, a Paramedic is assumed to be an individual that has received extensive training in a wide variety of procedures and skills. While basic level responders may be trained to control bleeding, sustain airways, and use cardiac defibrillators, a Paramedic is trained much more extensively.

During the training of a Paramedic, students are taught advanced medical techniques. They are extensively trained in anatomy, as well as the chemical and biological functions of the body. Paramedics are not only trained to manage bleeding and airway problems, they are also trained to treat and recognize serious conditions, such as cardiac and respiratory events. A Paramedic is trained in a wide range of pharmacological interventions, and how to calculate dosages and administer medications to successfully treat or even cure certain medical problems. Paramedics are trained in some surgical procedures, such as suturing, surgical cricothyrotomy, intravenous intervention, and how to manage many orthopedic injuries.

The word Paramedic means a great deal more than just someone that can give a patient a ride to the hospital. It means that this individual has proven their dedication to emergency medicine and their willingness to sacrifice high income and free time in order to help those in need. A Paramedic has proven a desire to learn and advance in medicine, and has the ability to lead others and make critical decisions that can affect the lives of countless others. A Paramedic is not just a ride to the hospital; they are a virtual extension of an emergency room Physician, with a great deal of knowledge and skills at their disposal.

Breaking the persona

Americans were first introduced to Paramedics in the 1970's. Nearly every American can remember the Emergency series on television, with Johnny and Roy as the leading characters. With the help of Hollywood drama, Americans got their first glimpses of the types of rescuers that were being introduced to emergency medicine. The problem is that many people have not realized just how much emergency medicine on the street has evolved. As time progressed, so did the training and roles of Paramedics in the field.

In the 1990's Paramedics began to take on new responsibilities and careers in medicine. They were beginning to find new roles in hospitals, critical care centers, physician's offices and clinics, and even started jumping into transitional courses in the nursing field. Paramedics can now be found in virtually every type of medical setting, and are proving to the healthcare industry that their training can offer much more than just emergency medical care. As the educational curriculum of a Paramedic evolves, it allows Paramedics to enter into new fields, and offer new prospectives in patient care.

New career advancements

Paramedics have come a long way since the days of Johnny and Roy. Education has opened doors that were never before available. Accredited college degree programs have been created, allowing Paramedics to not only obtain a solid degree in Paramedic Science, but also allowing them to transition into new medical fields. Paramedic to RN programs have paved the way for Paramedics to cross into the nursing field. Some colleges allow credit to Paramedic certifications and license toward programs like physician Assistant, Public Personnel Management, and even into business degree programs.

The role of a Paramedic has changed over the years. They are no longer being thought of as just someone that can stop bleeding and rush a patient to the hospital. They are proving themselves as leaders in emergency medicine, and students with the capacity to learn advanced studies. By being persistent and continually working towards new career advancements, Paramedics have created a whole new pathway into medicine.


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