Is Working as an EMT Stressful?

Being an emergency medical technician (EMT) can be very stressful. From training for an EMT exam to working long hours to dealing with critical life-and-death situations, the job can take a toll on your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. 

Understanding the demands and challenges of being a first responder, recognizing their effects on you, and learning how to properly manage stress are crucial parts of fulfilling your duties. Only then can you fully enjoy the sense of reward and fulfillment that comes with saving people’s lives on the field.

The Challenges of Working as an EMT

What exactly does an EMT do that makes the job so challenging? Let’s break down the different aspects of the role that could typically induce stress.

Long Hours

EMTs deal with shifts that can last as long as twenty-four hours (or longer!). You might find yourself responding to between ten and twenty calls per day, with each incident taking around 30 minutes to 3 hours to clear. Most EMTs also only clock in an average of six hours of sleep a day, which adds to overall fatigue.

Medical Emergencies

As an EMT, you’ll respond to multiple kinds of 911 calls, from drug overdoses to major car accidents to death. These sights can be traumatizing to see and experience, and that can have a negative effect on the brain.

Occupational Hazards

Working as an EMT can be dangerous. You may be dispatched to an unsafe environment, have to deal with aggressive patients, or stand at risk of contracting some communicable diseases. All of these threats can add a lot of stress to the job.

Difficult People

EMTs face many difficult people in their jobs–and it’s not always just the patients. You might have to work with uncooperative family members or unhelpful staff.

Emotional Trauma

Everything you experience as an EMT can leave a lot of emotional trauma. Even when you clock out, you could be haunted by the remnants of your day. You might even experience instances of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which could affect how you do your job.

How to Handle Stress as an EMT

Stress is unavoidable in the field of emergency medical services (EMS). But there are ways to properly manage them. You can form healthy habits to help you handle stressful situations. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

Take Breaks

Establish a good work-life balance that allows you to take regular breaks, from short frequent ones during your shift to relaxing days off. Make sure to include mindfulness in your day-to-day, and strive to get a good night’s sleep every day. 

Remember that breaks don’t necessarily require you to be idle. You might also find peace in spending time with people you love or taking up a hobby.

Hold Debriefing Sessions

Don’t keep problems to yourself. If you’re struggling with stress or are dealing with some trauma, seek out support from colleagues or healthcare professionals (like a psychiatrist) and get help on how to better address your wellbeing.

Promote a Positive Work Environment

You’ll be surrounded by your coworkers for hours on end during your shift, so you must maintain good relationships with each one of them. Socialize with your colleagues, promoting open and collaborative communication to strengthen your camaraderie. If issues come up, be sure to resolve them promptly.

Are You up for the Challenges of Being an EMT?

Is being an EMT enjoyable? While it can get difficult, working as an EMT is one of the most rewarding and fulfilling careers you can pursue. If you’re up for the challenge, get started on your EMT journey by purchasing lifetime access to The Paramedic Coach’s Video Vault, a series of resources designed to strengthen your EMS knowledge and skills!

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