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What's the Difference?

What is the difference between an EMT and a Paramedic?

All Emergency Medical Service (EMS) providers are certified in their respective disciplines and practice in accordance with the State's Regulations and Statutes which govern the practice of EMS and the State Board which credentials them.  In addition, every licensed EMS agency employs a Medical Director that approves and oversees all medical protocols used by the EMS agency.

In the simplest terms, the difference between an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and a EMT-Paramedic (EMT-P) comes down to the number of education hours, level of skills training and the invasiveness of the procedures they are authorized to perform.   

The differences between the certifications can be described using two factors.  The first is the amount of training required, or the minimum knowledge base.  The second is the functional skill-set, or depth of practical skills; from 3 months of education and training for the EMT, up to an additional two years of training for the Paramedic.  An EMT may choose to advance his or her education and skill-set to that of a paramedic, but there is no requirement to do so.   

EMT

EMT’s are able to perform necessary, life-saving intervention by way of Basic Life Support (BLS) knowledge and skills.  EMT’s are certified in CPR and First Aid, as well as trained in patient assessment skills, oxygen delivery, splinting, bandaging, some medication administration and the management of many types of shock.  To this skill-set is added the knowledge necessary to obtain sufficient understanding of Human Anatomy, Physiology and Pathology related to both medical illnesses and traumatic injuries.  EMT’s are trained to respond to, assess, prioritize and treat medical and trauma patients utilizing the knowledge and skills they have established through training.  By virtue of this, EMT’s represent the first line in the field of pre-hospital emergency care.

          Paramedic

Paramedics represent the top tier in the hierarchy of EMS.  They are, first and foremost, EMT’s—but in addition to BLS, the paramedic is educated and trained for Advanced Life Support (ALS) treatment and intervention.  The paramedic has undertaken education and skills training in pharmacology, medication administration, EKG interpretation, cardiac rhythm analysis, cardiac defibrillation, transcutaneous cardiac pacing (TCP), intravascular (IV) and intraosseous (IO) therapy, advanced airway establishment and maintenance and acute pain management.  This knowledge and procedure allows the paramedic more “tools” which they may use to intervene or manage a critical patient prior to arrival at a hospital.  Paramedics provide definitive medical care in the field and on the way to the receiving facility.



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