What it takes to be a paramedic

  • Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Photo Provided Chris EsDorn of Berkeley County EMS checks a patient’s vital signs inside a county EMS van.

They are the first and last line of defense in the time of a medical emergency and often their training and skill can sway the scales teetering between life and death.

The EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) or paramedic is the doctor or nurse in the field, and the link between a stricken patient and the hospital during transportation.

Berkeley County EMS is always on the lookout for qualified individuals to join the ranks of the local lifesavers.

Chris EsDorn, Berkeley County EMS Public Information Director, said if someone has what it takes, they’re welcome to apply.

“It takes several years of training and continuous training to become an EMT,” said Berkeley County EMS Chris EsDorn. “Intensive memorization of anatomy and processes; learning about everything there is to know about the human body, and putting it all back together to save someone’s life or deliver a baby or support a paramedic in a critical situation.”

Paramedics are medical professionals who are trained to provide pre-hospital care to patients in all different kinds of situations. The job duties of paramedics require a love for helping others, good physical stamina and dexterity, the ability to take direction and a flexible schedule.

EMT training isn’t just confined to medical emergency science. According to EsDorn there is much more to consider for the paramedic in the field.

“Once you learn the job skills, your knowledge expands to learning about hospitals, law, insurance, social working, community resources and anything else that could be available for the sick or injured person or homeless.”

Paramedic job opportunities were projected to grow nine percent from 2008 to 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Paramedics have one of the most stressful careers in the healthcare field,” Esdorn said. “But a career in Emergency Medical Services can be an exciting career field. Taking care of people in their greatest time of need, when critical illness or injury is present, can be very rewarding and frustrating.

“In EMS, we do accomplish routine work but one never knows when dispatched on an EMS call what to expect. If you like dynamics in the workplace, service to your fellow man, and you are fit both mentally and physically you should consider a career in EMS.”

Requirements include a minimum age of 18, and taking the EMT-B exam, according to Esdorn.

“You may not have to be 18 to take the course - depending on what school or agency is teaching the course itself,” he said. “The EMT-B course is a little over 180 contact hours and is usually spread over a few months meeting twice per week but can be pushed into a full-contact – a 40 hours per week schedule. It just depends where you take the class.

Paramedic training (EMT-P) is much longer and much more intense, according to Esdorn,

“The tendency these days is to train at the community college level for two years leading to an associates degree in Emergency Medical Services,” he said. “The advantage to that route is increased employment opportunities as both an EMT-P and an administrator.”

Another option to the college program for those who are not college bound is the Lowcountry Regional EMS council. The school is an extension of DHEC-EMS for the region.

There are about 300 accredited Paramedic education courses throughout the country.

“The community college may allow dual enrollment with your high school, you can speed the process a little by taking some of the general education courses such as English, Math, Sciences, while you’re in high school or by taking AP courses for credit in those subjects,” Esdorn said.

For more information about career opportunities with Berkeley County EMS or Berkeley County, visit www.berkeleycountysc.gov.

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