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EMT and Paramedic Training

By Ashley Boyce, allied health world staff writer

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What specific medical training do EMTs receive?

Basic and intermediate EMT certification is earned in 150 to 350 hours of emergency medical training at a community or technical college, or vocational school. Some state universities offer EMT programs as well. In the course of their certification, EMTs will learn basic human anatomy and physiology in the classroom before going on to receive training in emergency medical response techniques. This emergency medical training would include courses in:

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Trauma Assessment which involves training EMTs to make dozens of checks and assessments in the first moments after arriving on the scene of an accident to determine the nature and severity of injuries. EMT’s would first check verbal EMT, Paramedic and Emergency Trainingresponsiveness and vital signs like pulse, heartbeat, breathing, and pupil dilation; all while prioritizing injuries so as to give attention to the most life threatening injuries first. 
Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) which trains EMTs to perform a combination of rescue breathing and chest compressions on victims of cardiac arrest. CPR can be vital in buying time by restoring blood flow to the heart and brain until the heart can be made to function normally again.
Dressing and Bandaging which trains EMTs to dress wounds in order to keep them clean and contaminant-free so as to reduce the chances of infection, and so as to control bleeding. EMTs would be trained in the use of common self-adhering bandages as well as improvised bandages used to hold dressings in place.

Bleeding Control which trains EMTs in the nine main pressure points of the body so as to be able to stop bleeding from major arterial veins. Preventing blood loss through pressure or tourniquet dramatically reduces the chances of bleeding to death from severe injury.
Splinting which trains in how to make use of either specially manufactured splints or improvised materials to temporarily immobilize a fractured arm or leg until a proper cast can be made. Splinting reduces pain and additional injury while a patient is in transport to a medical facility.

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Spinal Immobilization which trains EMTs in how to provide the very special care that’s needed when dealing with spinal injuries to prevent further injury that may result in full or partial paralysis. In the event of spinal injury, the patient would be fitted with a rigid immobilizing collar around the neck then strapped to a spinal board to restrict movement.
Defibrillation which trains in the use of a small, lightweight, portable defibrillator called an automated external defibrillator (AED). These machines send electric current to the heart to restore normal contractions in the case of arrhythmia or cardiac arrest.

What specific training do paramedics receive beyond that of EMTs?

The training programs for paramedics are far more intensive than basic or intermediate EMT programs. Paramedic courses are available through the same channels: community or technical colleges, vocational schools, or universities. These programs are typically two years in length. These advanced paramedic programs cover more technically advanced medical training that would include:
Endotracheal Intubation training which teaches EMTs the techniques of advanced airway management. This is recognized as the single most important advanced emergency medical technique. It dramatically increases the chances of survival while decreasing the chance of brain damage by ensuring oxygen continues to be delivered to the brain. In this technique a tube hooked to a breathing apparatus is slid down the trachea to deliver air to the lungs. This may involve use of a tool called a laryngoscope which holds the jaws apart to allow visual inspection of the airway and clear passage for the tracheal tube.
Pharmacology training which focuses on the study of drugs and their affects. Paramedics receive training in the applied use and affects of between 40 and 50 commonly used pharmaceutical drugs. It is a paramedic’s responsibility to determine the medications or street drugs a patient is on, and to know the potential side-effects of combining those with any drug that may need to be administered at the scene. Pharmacology training would include diagnosis and treatment of victims of drug overdose and poisoning.

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Electrocardiology (ECG or EKG) training which teaches EMTs how to use a tool called an electrocardiograph that reads the electric activity of the heart through leads attached to non-invasive diodes placed on the chest. This is done as part of traumatic injury assessment to diagnose abnormal heart rhythms.
Intravenous Cannulation (IV) training which teaches how to administer IVs in order to deliver a steady supply of blood, saline or other fluids directly into the bloodstream through a catheter needle inserted into a vein. Paramedics often administer IV in the event of significant blood loss due to traumatic injury in an effort to keep enough fluids in the blood stream to continue delivery of oxygen to the brain. IVs are also commonly used to deliver electrolyte solutions directly to the blood stream in the event of dehydration.

How much does EMT and paramedic technical training cost?

The cost of EMT and paramedic programs depends on the institution that provides the training. Community colleges and technical or vocational schools represent the lower end, while state and online universities represent the higher end.

Basic and Intermediate EMT training won’t usually exceed $1,000. In some cases, as with community college programs, the total cost is only a few hundred dollars to gain the training necessary to become licensed.

Tuition for advanced EMT paramedic training programs typically runs between $1,500 and $3,000 per year. Factoring in additional fees, plus the cost of books and gear, this could be as high as $5,000 per year. Some extended paramedic programs can last as many as two years.

Accelerated 12-week paramedic programs typically cost about $5,000.

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