What Does an EMR Do?

The emergency medical services (EMS) industry is always in demand, with currently more than one million licensed EMS personnel licensed in the US. From emergency medical responders (EMRs) to paramedics, there is a growing need for professionals in this industry, and you could be one of them.

EMR personnel are the first rung of the emergency services personnel ladder, making EMR certification requirements the easiest to complete. However, just because it’s less time-intensive to become an EMR than a paramedic doesn’t mean gaining certification is a walk in the park. These professionals work closely with other emergency services personnel to provide immediate, life-saving interventions to patients in critical conditions.

But what is it that EMRs do that differentiates them from other emergency healthcare services? In this article, we’ll dive into the world of EMRs, including what EMR certification is and what you learn in EMR training.

What Is an EMR?

EMRs are emergency healthcare personnel who respond to illness or injury-related emergencies. EMRs treat immediate life threats until additional EMS resources arrive, but EMRs do not usually work on ambulances unless they are servicing a rural area or working alongside volunteer departments. 

EMRs provide immediate basic care and assist other healthcare responders, but do not do patient transports alone typically. They can, however, assist with transports or assist with more complicated, life-saving interventions under the request and supervision of higher-level personnel, such as emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics.

What Do You Need to Become an EMR?

The training to become an EMR is more extensive than CPR certification or first-aid training. EMRs usually need to be at least eighteen years old and have a high school diploma or an educational equivalent, such as a GED. From there, the certification requirements are:

  • Complete an EMR course though a state-approved EMR program
  • Pass the cognitive (knowledge) exam conducted by the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT)
  • Pass your state’s EMR psychomotor (skills) exam
  • Have a current CPR-Basic Life Support (BLS) for ‘Healthcare Provider’
  • Have your EMR course program director verify your course completion on the National Registry website

The cognitive and psychomotor exams are no cakewalk. These exams measure your knowledge of the National EMS Education Standards laid out by the federal government, but memorizing lines in a textbook won’t help you pass. 

These exams test your working knowledge by presenting you with scenarios that closely resemble real-life ones you’ll face on the job. This means memorizing terms won’t help unless you know how to apply the knowledge in context.

EMR courses cover information that will be on both exams. The cognitive exam focuses on these six content areas:

  • Airway management, respiration, and artificial ventilation
  • Medical emergencies
  • Traumatic emergencies
  • Cardiology and resuscitation
  • Special patient populations
  • EMS operations

The psychomotor exam, however, varies from state to state because they are determined by the state’s regulations and standards. The NREMT has compiled an example performance checklist that includes:

  • Trauma assessment and management
  • Medical emergency assessment and management
  • BVM (Bag-Valve-Mask) ventilation of an apneic adult patient
  • Oxygen administration by non-rebreather mask
  • Cardiac arrest management

Remember–the performance checklists used during the actual exam may differ from this list depending on your local EMS office.

EMR Tasks and Responsibilities

EMRs answer emergency calls to provide efficient and immediate care to ill and injured patients, using limited equipment. These responders are responsible for answering the call, transporting themselves to the location of the incident or crisis, and working within the scope of care that’s defined by the state, regional, and local regulatory agencies.

This typically looks like complying with regulations on handling the deceased, the protection of property and evidence at the scene, and understanding basic medical-legal principles. There are some soft skills required here, as well, including remaining calm during emergencies and understanding stress responses in patients and bystanders.

In certain circumstances, EMRs can also step into other roles if the proper personnel is absent. For instance, an EMR can create a safe traffic environment using road flares and redirecting traffic during a roadside emergency. Other duties of EMR personnel include:

  • Opening and maintaining an airway
  • Assisting in childbirth
  • Manually stabilizing injured extremities
  • Controlling a hemorrhage
  • Administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
  • Bandaging wounds
  • Ventilating patients
  • Manage general medical complaints, altered mental status, seizures, and behavioral emergencies 

You will face a wide range of situations and emergencies on your average day as an EMR, but this work is fulfilling and incredibly necessary. If you’re ready to take the call, you need to be equipped for anything.

This is why the Paramedic Coach offers the Video Vault: an exclusive study resource that takes everything you learn in your EMR course and breaks it down so you have the context and knowledge needed to pass the test. For more information about EMR certification and the Video Vault, check out our other posts!

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