What Is the Difference Between Paramedics and EMRs?

In the US, there are four potential certification levels for medical responders. An Emergency Medical Responder (EMR) is the first level, where qualified EMRs deliver critical first aid, such as resuscitation and CPR while waiting for ambulance teams and paramedics to arrive on the scene.

A paramedic is the most advanced qualification, requiring more intensive study than an EMR online course. Paramedics are called out to medical emergencies such as accidents and can administer medications, triage patients, and transport them to a hospital.

What Does an EMR Do?

EMRs are often the first people available to respond to an incident or illness. They are commonly professionals working as lifeguards, child carers, or volunteer firefighters and can administer lifesaving first aid before any other medical response team arrives.

Is an EMR the same thing as a first responder? Generally, yes–while this term is used in different ways, an EMR is an individual with a recognized certification who has the knowledge and ability to help manage an illness or injury immediately.

What Are the Responsibilities of an EMR?

An EMR’s specific duties and responsibilities depend on where they work and whether they are part of the support team for another medical responder or work outside of the healthcare system. What can you do as an EMR? As a summary of the role, an EMR may be expected to:

  • Respond swiftly to an illness or injury, issue instructions to contact 911, and ensure the person is breathing, has no airway obstructions, and is in the recovery position
  • Administer chest compressions and CPR if an individual is not breathing and maintain this first aid until a paramedic or EMT is available
  • Collect details about the person’s condition, the cause of the accident, or any information about how their illness began and their symptoms (an ambulance team may depend on the EMR to convey essential details, particularly if the person is unconscious)

Although an EMR does not typically carry equipment, they can be asked to assist or travel with a medical team to the emergency department.

How Is an EMT Different From an EMR?

EMTs, or Emergency Medical Technicians, complete a higher level of training and testing than EMRs. Many responders qualify as an EMR before studying for the EMT test and then progress to become a qualified paramedic. There are correlations between EMRs and EMTs, but the primary differences are that:

  • EMTs can work more autonomously and might be part of an ambulance crew or work independently or alongside paramedics.
  • An EMT can transport a patient to the hospital, often administering ongoing first aid such as stabilizing a broken bone, supporting a patient going into shock, or controlling heavy bleeding.
  • EMTs normally have access to a range of basic equipment and resources, unlike an EMR, who responds there and then without a medical pack and sometimes without a first aid kit.

A paramedic might be called to a serious incident, accompanied by an EMT who performs a supportive role. Alternatively, EMRs may work alongside EMTs as trained ambulance drivers with a good baseline knowledge of first-aid techniques.

What Is the Role of a Paramedic?

Paramedics are highly trained and have an in-depth knowledge of multiple medical approaches to dealing with critical care, triaging injured patients, and managing serious illnesses. The paramedic’s role covers a broader scope than an EMR or EMT, although they may rely on these colleagues to help, collate information, or provide details about when, where, and how an incident occurred.

A paramedic can conduct more advanced assessments of an individual’s injury or illness, deliver manual defibrillation, and perform procedures where these are necessary to save the person’s life. In short, a licensed paramedic has all the same knowledge as an EMR or EMT but takes these further, with the ability to carry out higher-risk and more invasive interventions. 

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