What Is the Difference Between an EMR and an EMT?

There are multiple possible roles within the emergency medicine field. Before deciding on a course or program to follow or thinking about test prep for EMT certifications, it’s important to have a clear idea about which positions are right for you.

When working as an emergency responder, dealing with critical incidents, taking care of major injuries, and addressing life-threatening medical emergencies can be demanding, often with irregular hours and high unpredictability. But, for many, it is an aspirational career path and an opportunity to work in an incredibly valuable position.

Today, we’ll answer some commonly asked questions about the variances between working as an Emergency Medical Responder (EMR) and an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and some practicalities to consider.

What Does an EMR Do?

EMRs, previously known as ‘Medical Response Technicians’ (MRTs), are first responders who deliver first aid to individuals within their care or custody or work in a medical setting in a support role. Firefighters, lifeguards, security officers, and on-site first aiders may all hold the EMR certification. They might be asked to respond to vehicle collisions, emergency injuries, or conditions such as heart attacks to provide immediate interventions.

An EMR can, for example, perform CPR and try to keep a patient calm and stable while waiting for an EMT, paramedic, or ambulance crew to arrive and take over.

How Does the Role of an EMT Differ?

An EMT completes more advanced training and normally needs to study for around double the hours necessary for an EMR certification. They are equally qualified to deliver emergency first aid. Still, they can also perform patient assessments, transport a person to the hospital and are authorized to provide a wider range of urgent interventions.

What, exactly, does an EMT do? The main goal of the role is to respond to emergencies, assess the patient’s condition as quickly as possible, and make key decisions about the right response, actions, and interventions to protect life and prevent an injury or illness from worsening.

For example, an EMT might provide defibrillation, control bleeding, transfer the patient to a suitable stretcher, use immobilization techniques to prevent further injuries, and then accompany the person to the hospital. Most ambulance services have one or more qualified EMTs on board at any time, although many EMTs work in pairs or alongside licensed paramedics.

Which Emergency Medicine Qualification Should I Study For?

These two roles are very different, so the right training opportunities may depend on your long-term goals–whether you’d like a basic first aid qualification to upskill, need to be a certified EMR for a job in another emergency service, or are hoping to become a fully licensed EMT or paramedic.

If you choose to train towards becoming an EMT, you might also plan to study for more advanced qualifications in the future, such as the Advanced EMT (AEMT) certification, or attend paramedic school to gain additional skills. While you don’t necessarily need a pre-existing EMR qualification to embark on an EMT program, you do need to be a qualified EMT before attending a paramedic course. The experience of real-world emergencies and the ambulance environment can be beneficial to whichever route you choose.

What is the hardest thing about being an EMT? Many say the toughest transition is the shift work or being on call and potentially needing to respond to urgent callouts during unsociable hours. However, others find the long hours are balanced with several consecutive days off to rest and recuperate before resuming shift-based or callout duties. 

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