If you’re a young person and interested in a career as an emergency medical technician (EMT) volunteer, you’ve come to the right place. People who are considering a career in some type of medicine often choose to become a volunteer EMT because of the perks it offers. It’s a good career for those who don’t want the difficulty of becoming a doctor but still want something medical as a career. Volunteer fire departments are always looking for additional EMTs, and even if you’re not getting paid, you still gain valuable experience that you can’t get with most other jobs. Let’s dive into how to become a volunteer EMT, the next step in your educational and career journey, and how volunteer positions can turn into a future career in the medical field or emergency care.
What Does an EMT Do?
Emergency medical services, or EMS providers, have one main responsibility and that is to respond to a variety of emergencies and keep the patient well cared for until they get to the hospital. They provide life-saving care and keep the patient stable until a doctor can look at them. They are, quite literally, a first responder who administers first aid, hooks up an IV, administers oxygen, and does whatever else is necessary so the patient is stabilized when they get to the medical center.
This is a highly stressful job, which means you must be able to remain calm in the face of an emergency. When it comes to the healthcare system, the right EMT can mean the difference between life and death, so they play a very important role. Often, people in nursing or medical school become an EMT while they’re in school because of the experience it provides. EMTs are usually employed by a fire station, ambulance company, or another such company.
EMT volunteers are usually found in small rural areas, whereas EMTs who do this as a full-time job and get paid are usually found in larger cities. If you’re a volunteer, you often have a little flexibility when it comes to your work schedule. Other than these things, EMTs have the same training and requirements to do the job. The first step in becoming an EMT is to check the certification and education requirements in your state since each state can be a little different.
How to Become an EMT Volunteer
Whether you’re a volunteer or get paid, all states in the US require EMTs to do two things: complete an EMT training program and be licensed. An EMT training course in CPR is required, as well as learning to perform certain medical procedures, including administering oxygen, defibrillating hearts, and other life-saving measures. The courses are broken down into basic, intermediate, and paramedic levels. EMTs are taught to recognize certain medical conditions and determine what the patient needs so they can act quickly.
Normally, a volunteer EMT will ride alongside other professionals, so they’re never alone as they work. In most states, they need to be at least 18 years old, have a high school diploma, have good eyesight, be in good shape, be able to lift heavy objects, and have accurate color vision. This is indeed a high-stress environment because each case is considered an emergency, but you’ll be well-trained for it before you go out for the first time. Plus, each level of certification you achieve provides you with a little more self-confidence.
In addition to these things, you need certain other skills besides EMS certification and a license to be a good EMT professional. The following sections are included:
- Good communication skills to communicate with the medical team on the patient’s condition once you get to the hospital.
- A certain amount of physical strength in order to lift patients and help put them into and take them out of the ambulance so that healthcare providers can tend to them.
- A fast response time because you never know what type of emergency situations you’ll be dealing with when you get to the patient.
- Stress management skills to deal with the constant stressful situations you’ll be dealing with on a regular basis.
Since the states regulate the EMT programs in each state, other things may be required of you, including a background check or psychomotor exam, to name a few. This is why it’s imperative that you check the state requirements where you live so as not to miss anything important. Also, when it comes to training and the EMT course you take, make sure you choose one that is state-approved. Many of them are free, and they can be taken through community colleges, trade schools, and the American Red Cross.
Finally, you have to have some mental stability when you’re a professional EMT. This job is tough both physically and mentally, and you’ll be expected to give constant medical care to a variety of patients. When you get a call, you won’t know what to expect, but you can be prepared for it to be something totally different every time you get into the ambulance. No two trauma emergencies are alike, so you have to be prepared for anything.
You Won’t Be Alone
If any of this scares you, not to worry because the training you’ll receive starts with a 100-hour class that teaches you quite a bit. You’ll also never be out in the ambulance alone. Alongside you might be people who are medical students or an actual paramedic, which is the highest level of experience and education. Remember that a lot of places need EMT professionals, including your local fire department or local ambulance service, private ambulance services, hospitals, nursing homes, and many others.
Many people who work as a volunteer firefighter are also EMTs, so this is a field that allows you to meet a lot of different professionals who are intent on providing excellent patient care every time. The application process is simple and usually found with the state or the organization or school teaching the classes you’ll be required to attend. Being an EMT is challenging but not insurmountable. Once you make sure you meet the initial requirements, the rest should come easily.
In addition to reviewing state laws, you might also want to check online with the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT), which sets up a national protocol for all EMT professions, volunteer or not. The NREMT educates future and current EMS providers and provides them with the information they need to improve their skills and keep up with the latest information in the field. If you’re going to be an EMT volunteer, it’s a good idea to get familiar with this organization.
Providing expert EMS service to patients and people in need requires experienced professionals who are well-trained and educated. Fortunately, before you get into that emergency vehicle for the first time, you’ll have a certain number of classroom hours and some practical experience as well. On-the-job training will increase that knowledge, and between the classroom training and hands-on experience you’ll get, it won’t be long before you’ll be a great volunteer EMT.
The main point to remember is that you must take an approved class, master the initial training, meet the minimum age requirement, and be licensed before you start working. This requirement is the same for both volunteer and paid EMTs. Your class will start with basic CPR, but it goes way beyond that. If you love helping people and you have an interest in the medical profession, you now know how to become a volunteer EMT and can decide if a career in the EMS field might be right for you.