What Is the Hardest Thing About Being an EMT?

While EMT test prep can provide a solid foundation of knowledge and decision-making skills to help you achieve the necessary qualifications to begin a career as a professional EMT, many prospective students are also ready to explore the pros and cons of emergency medicine.

The pressure of providing life-saving interventions, working long shifts, being on twenty-four-hour callout duty, and being responsible for making on-the-spot assessments about the right treatment for a patient in crisis can feel intense. However, the diversity of the job, the reward of being able to actively save a life, and providing people with the best possible care to ensure they make it safely to the hospital can make the role of an EMT as exciting as it is challenging.

Summarizing the EMT Role

EMTs are medical first responders and are often the first to arrive on the scene of an accident or emergency. In some cases, an EMR working close to the incident will have begun providing basic first aid while waiting for the EMT team to arrive.

What is the difference between an EMR and an EMT? An Emergency Medical Responder (EMR) holds a less advanced certification and might act as the designated responder for a setting such as a school, sports facility, or another emergency response role. They cannot transport patients to the hospital and have less training than EMTs. However, EMRs can perform initial interventions such as beginning chest compressions or ensuring a patient does not move and exacerbate an injury.

Then, the ambulance team–which normally arrives with at least one certified EMT–takes over, assessing the patient’s condition, making immediate decisions about the right treatment or action, and transporting the patient to the hospital if necessary.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Being an EMT?

While the knowledge that you have the skills to provide life-saving care and make a profound difference in the lives of the patients you treat is highly rewarding, the work of an EMT is not without challenges. Some of the hardest elements of the job include:

  • Working in difficult environments, such as responding to a vehicle collision or a fall from height: EMTs are trained to assess hazards quickly, taking steps to protect their own welfare from risks and potential exposure to contagious diseases or falling debris.
  • Long shifts, with the average day lasting up to twelve hours: Emergencies do not follow any predictable pattern; on-call shifts can alternate between quiet days and extremely busy periods.
  • Possible emotional trauma when attending to a patient who cannot be saved or has suffered a severe injury or illness: This can be difficult to witness.

While any prospective EMT should be fully aware of the hardest parts of the job, these are counterbalanced by the positives. The knowledge that your skills have saved lives or contributed to improving patient outcomes is a significant benefit, alongside long-term job stability, numerous ways to upskill and advance, and the high demand for qualified, certified emergency responders overall.

How Much Do EMTs Earn?

Salaries depend on several variables, such as the type of service or healthcare provider you work for and the area in which you live and work. EMTs also receive different pay rates depending on their experience, skills, and seniority, with an Advanced EMT (AEMT) commanding a higher rate than an EMT basic.

How much do EMT basics make? As a rough idea, across the US, the averages are:

  • $19.19 per hour as a US-wide average
  • $25.83 per hour in higher-paid roles

Most healthcare services also offer additional non-cash benefits, such as a 401(k), funded training opportunities, and paid time off between shifts.

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