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Careers in Emergency Medicine

Emergency Medicine: The Chain of Action
When somebody calls 911, emergency medical workers spring into action. On the front lines, ambulance workers assess a patient's condition, attempt to treat the patient's symptoms, and transport the patient to a hospital. Once the patient reaches the hospital, emergency room nurses and physicians take over care and attempt to stabilize the patient, performing surgery if necessary.

The Hierarchy of First Responders
Emergency medical workers are trained at various levels of expertise. The primary responders are usually trained as emergency medical technicians (EMTs) or paramedics. The EMT is the most basic level of emergency medical responder. This certification varies depending on the state in which it is earned, but generally requires 200-300 hours of training and some hands-on experience riding on an ambulance and observing in the ER. The scope of practice of an EMT is limited to basic medical skills and transport.

The Life of a Paramedic
Paramedics, on the other hand, receive advanced training in anatomy, physiology, and medicine. Training to become a paramedic usually takes 1-2 years, and requires extensive coursework and hands-on experience. About 40% of paramedics work for private ambulance services, and many others are employed by fire departments and public emergency medical services.

Working in the ER
The emergency room staff consists of registered nurses and ER doctors. Nursing degrees, including those with specific training to work in an ER, take 3-4 years to complete and are available from both traditional and online universities. Working in an emergency room can be one of the most challenging jobs in healthcare, but is ultimately very rewarding.

Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook

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