A Guide to Schooling to Be a Paramedic (Including FAQ)
Updated November 8, 2022
Paramedics are first responders who manage medical emergencies and provide aid to injured people. The paramedic's role is important because they provide immediate on-site treatment that regularly saves lives. If you're interested in becoming a paramedic, it's important that you know all the schooling requirements for the job to consider whether it's suitable for your goals and interests. In this article, we discuss why schooling to be a paramedic is important, define what a paramedic is, highlight the schooling requirements, discover how to become one, and answer some frequently asked questions about the role to help you learn more.
Why is schooling to be a paramedic important?
Schooling to be a paramedic is important because they are emergency personnel who undergo intensive and lengthy training and operate under a lot of urgency and pressure. It's important that they thoroughly understand emergency medicine and know how to carefully handle, treat, and transport injured people. Because of the nature of the work, it's a career that requires years of schooling and training.
What is a paramedic?
A paramedic is a trained medical professional who attends to emergencies, provides treatment to injured people, and transports them to a hospital for further treatment. Paramedics are usually the first medical personnel to arrive at the scene of an accident and render emergency treatment to injured people. People often confuse paramedics with emergency medical technicians (EMTs). While both provide emergency medical care, paramedics receive a higher level of training than EMTs. The primary responsibilities of a paramedic include:
providing basic life-saving care to injured people when called to an emergency
providing emergency care to pregnant women, such as assisting with labour and delivering babies where necessary
controlling and stopping bleeding injuries, managing allergic reactions, and administering oxygen to people inside an ambulance
administering emergency medication to injured people to stop bleeding and stabilize them for transport to a hospital
providing advanced medical care, such as intubating an injured person or starting an intravenous line
securely transporting injured patients to and between hospitals and medical facilities for further medical care
monitoring all medical equipment and supplies in an ambulance to determine they are sufficient and in good working order
writing and submitting patient care reports and reports of all emergencies and use of medical equipment and supplies
Schooling requirements to become a paramedic
Here are the basic requirements to become a paramedic:
high school completion certificate or GED certification
completion of a hospital-based or other paramedical emergency program in a one- to three-year course
licensing by the regulatory body of your home province
valid driver's licence
valid licence to drive an ambulance
valid certificate to show you are a professional in cardiopulmonary resuscitation
proof of current immunizations
Many community colleges offer basic EMT education, which usually lasts between six and nine months and involves 120 to 150 hours of training. Advanced programs extend up to one or two years, but they aren't compulsory. Many paramedics start their careers as EMTs to gain experience, increase their skills, and strengthen their resumes. Some colleges require applicants for a paramedic program to have at least six months of experience working as an EMT. These programs provide 1,200 to 1,800 hours of training over two to three years.
How to become a paramedic
Here are five steps you can follow to start your career as a paramedic:
1. Enrol in a paramedic program
Your first step in becoming a paramedic is enrolling in a diploma program. You can choose to study at a public or private college in your province. When selecting a college, it's a good idea to research their paramedic programs. Talking to previous and current students is a good way to get this information. To qualify for either type of college, you need a high school completion certificate or a GED certificate.
2. Graduate from the paramedic diploma program
The diploma program combines theoretical and practical lessons and includes practical classes to practise these skills. The content and nature of the classes vary from college to college, so check out the program syllabus of your chosen college for more details. Typically, classes for paramedic students include anatomy, basic pediatrics, pharmacology, and psychology. They also learn emergency first aid and patient care, ambulance operations, and handling physical and mental traumas.
3. Pass the advanced emergency medical care assistant examination
After you finish your paramedical diploma program, you can write the advanced emergency medical care assistant examination to gain certification. This includes multiple-choice questions that instructors draw on from real-life emergencies. Students answer questions on the emergency scenario, from receiving the call to vehicle operations, emergency first-aid treatment, and patient transport. Each candidate has three attempts to pass this test, and the passing score is 70% and above. If you fail all three tries, you can take a remedial training program and have a final attempt.
4. Apply to paramedic positions
After receiving your diploma and passing the certification examination, you can start applying for paramedic jobs. The most popular employer of paramedics is ambulance services, but there are many other options if you don't want to work for an ambulance service. You can work in a hospital, medical centre, fire department, or at a government health department, such as in a prison. Some private companies, such as mining companies, private schools, and manufacturing firms, also hire paramedics to deliver on-site emergency health care.
5. Pass the interview process
Paramedics are in high demand, and the interview process for a paramedic is quite different from interviews for other jobs. There is usually an in-person interview, where you may demonstrate to a potential employer that you have the skills and knowledge for the job. This process varies from employer to employer but can include a test of your ambulance driving skills, basic trauma patient care, communication skills, and knowledge of emergency equipment and procedures.
Read more: EMT vs. Paramedic: What's the Difference?
FAQ about becoming a paramedic
Here are some of the frequently asked questions about becoming a paramedic and its requirements:
What skills does a paramedic need?
In addition to the strict educational requirements, paramedics need many skills for this high-pressure career. Some of these skills include:
physical strength and stamina
ability to assess and manage a trauma situation properly
ability to make quick decisions while under pressure
verbal communication and listening skills
ability to combine professionalism with empathy and compassion
knowledge of medical software and hardware
ability to be dynamic in different situations and adjust quickly
personal stress management skills
flexibility and ability to work long hours and overtime
ability to remain patient and calm when dealing with patients
What other job opportunities are available for paramedics?
The intense and long training that paramedics undergo also makes them very good candidates for other jobs. Some of these may require additional training, but all the jobs below are possible career options for paramedics:
emergency medical technician (EMT)
crime laboratory technician
Can paramedics perform medical procedures?
Paramedics can only perform medical procedures that their certification covers. These include all basic emergency medical procedures that can save a patient's life or stabilize them for transport to a hospital or medical centre. Some of these procedures include stopping bleeding and stabilizing injuries, inserting chest tubes, performing respiratory procedures, administering pain and allergy medicine, and using an electrocardiogram to identify heart issues. Paramedics don't perform surgeries on injured people, as they don't have the knowledge and experience for advanced medical procedures and care.
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