Paramedics are often the difference between life and death. They administer immediate medical care at the scene of an emergency, before transporting victims to the nearest hospital. Paramedics must be physically and emotionally tough, and keep a cool head in high-pressure situations. Does this sound like you? Are you wondering how to become one? Or how much a paramedic makes? Read on, as this article discusses a paramedic’s average salary, key responsibilities, work environment and career path.
What is the salary of a paramedic? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary in 2012 was $35,110 per annum, or $16.88 per hour. The top 10% of earners make $54,690 annually, whereas the lowest 10% earn $20,690.
Earnings are determined by a number of factors. Income differs with location; those employed in busy metropolitan areas are in higher demand than those in rural areas, and command higher salaries as a result. Additionally, income varies with state. The top 5 paying states are Washington, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois and Alaska .Type of employer also influences annual salary. Lastly, salaries increase with job experience. Starting salaries are around $20,690, which increase by roughly 10% after seven years in the profession.
Paramedics enjoy comprehensive benefit packages in addition to their salaries, typically consisting of health care, social security, pension schemes or time off.
Paramedics provide medical care in emergency settings. People’s lives are often at stake, and rely on the quick reactions and cool heads by the medics on scene.
Paramedics are sent to medical emergencies by 911 operators. Upon arriving, they must assess the situation, looking for anything that presents a danger to themselves or others. With the scene deemed safe, they can then evaluate the victim, and determine what treatment is needed. Their first priority is checking patients’ airways, breathing and circulation, and may need to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
Medics must be able to perform a wide range of first aid procedures, as they must be prepared for a huge array of possible scenarios. They may arrive at the scene of a car crash, treat gun-shot wounds, and deal with poisonings or anaphylactic shocks, in addition to treating minor injuries. After immediate treatment, paramedics must secure patients into an ambulance to rush them to hospital for more extensive care if needed.
When the adrenaline rush fades and the patient is safely in the hands of a hospital doctor, paramedics write incident reports to document treatment that was given and any details that may help doctors in providing after-care.
Paramedics work in all types of environments – both outdoor and indoor settings, working during all hours and weather conditions. They are based in hospital settings, but travel to different locations to treat patients. Most professionals are employed full time, working around 40 hours per week, although a third work longer. As paramedics respond to emergencies, they work around the clock, dealing with incidents at night and on weekends. Some may work 12-24 hour shifts.
The job is both physically and emotionally demanding. Effective medical treatment relies on paramedics administering care as quickly as possible, so agility and speed are vital. Victims must be lifted onto stretchers to be taken to an ambulance, so professionals must have both strength and endurance. Working all hours puts emotional strain on professionals, but losing patients can be devastating. Burnout is not uncommon.
That said, those in the profession enjoy an immensely rewarding and fulfilling career. In a survey conducted by PayScale, paramedics said they were “extremely satisfied” with their occupation, and ranked it 5/5 for job satisfaction. When asked to describe their occupation’s most positive aspect, one paramedic writes “Absolutely it is taking care of people,” “The ability to do a couple of things that can literally save a life, however rare that instance may be, is an incredible rush. Just being able to provide comfort and care for people is also great, and it still continues to be.”
How to become a Paramedic
Medical responders exist in a three level hierarchy. Education requirements differ with each, although all will typically take a non-degree medical technology course and complete supervised experience. All are required to be state licensed.
A basic Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) is on the first rung of the ladder thus needs the least amount of education and training. They are responsible for basic immediate response procedures. Becoming one requires at least 150 hours of specialized training, plus experience working in a hospital or with an ambulance team. Above them are the Advanced EMT’s, who are trained to administer intravenous fluids and medication in addition to EMT duties. They must complete 300 hours of training.
Paramedics occupy the top rung, performing the most advanced first-response medical care. All paramedics must complete a post-secondary education program in medical technology, as well as have 1200 hours of experience. Most programs are non-degree award programs, and may take several months to two years to complete. To apply, applicants typically require CPR certification in addition to a high school diploma.
The National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) certifies EMT’s and paramedics. In most states, NREMT certification is sufficient for licensure, while others may have state examinations.
BLS predicts paramedic employment opportunities to grow by 23% in the 2012-2022 projection period, which is faster than the average for all occupations. Growth can be attributed to a number of factors.
A growing, ageing population means more medics are needed in treating age-related conditions such as heart-attacks or strokes. Additionally, with the number of motorized vehicles on the roads rising, the resulting increase in car crash incidents will also demand further paramedical services. Rising incidences of substance abuse also contributes.
Inevitably, people will always get hurt. It’s hard to imagine a world where paramedics won’t be needed.
Medical doctors treat and diagnose various illnesses and diseases. They use a variety of tests and examinations to identify the patient’s medical condition. They then design treatment plans and prescribe medication to promote recovery. Becoming a doctor involves graduating from medical school. The average annual income of medical doctor’s in 2013 was $187,000 (BLS).
Surgeons treat patient injuries and diseases by operations. They use a variety of different instruments to correct physical deformities and repair bone or tissue. Surgeons can specialize in a number of different fields such as orthopedic or neurological surgery. Operating on patients demands a great deal of concentration, and surgeons must also be calm under pressure if something were to go wrong. The average salary of a surgeon is $240,463 according to PayScale.