For many people, becoming an EMT can be a rewarding career. For others, it can be a stepping stone to other paths in the healthcare field. Ultimately, it is a good clinical experience where you get to work in the field while being part of the patient’s care. On my journey of becoming an EMT, there were times when I felt lost and needed guidance. In this article, I will discuss whether it is right for you and provide an overview of how to become an EMT, as well as what I wish I had known when I first started.
Is EMT Right For You?
The first part of becoming an emergency medical technician (EMT) is to first see if this job is right for you. It can be a wonderful career for many and it can as well be a stepping stone to learn the ropes of what the healthcare field is like. However, it is not for everyone.
To become an EMT requires some investment and time. I know some friends who did not see through to the end of the EMT course. And even after finishing the course, it can take several attempts to pass the NREMT. Ensure you have finances and time to commit to schooling and training before you begin.
With an EMT license, you are able to be:
- Of course, an EMT on call for either BLS (basic life support) or ALS (advance life support)
- An ER technician, though the competitive job may entail additional training for EKG and phlebotomy
- Medical assistant (MA); there is a separate license for MA but many MA jobs can take EMT license
Look into it, watch videos, ask friends, and learn what it is like being an EMT. Once you have a good general understanding and can allocate time for studies and training, take action and make it happen.
After some digging and you believe getting an EMT license is right for you, the next step is to go to school. The purpose of going to schooling is to prepare you for your NREMT and to receive standard clinical training.
When choosing a school, check:
- If the school is accredited
- The course schedule and how it will be taught (online, in-person, or hybrid)
- The cost of attending the school
- The requirements to pass
Passing the school’s exams and final (both written and practicals) will allow you to register and take the national board.
After EMT school, you must register a date and time to take your NREMT to become a certified EMT. In general, many jobs require you to pass the board to be eligible to apply.
I recommend registering for your NREMT soon after your pass your finals at EMT school as the content and material are still fresh in your head. Delaying it may involve more content revision and preparation.
After you have taken and passed your NREMT, you will be able to receive your gray card (card that identifies that your are an EMT). Now you are a certified EMT.
After becoming a certified EMT, you will be prompted to register to a specific county to be able to work in that county. If I am registered to work in Riverside county, for example, I have to find a job within Riverside county as my scopes of practice exist in that county alone. You may be able to have multiple registration to work in multiple different counties.
Different county may have different requirements. Check to ensure proper registration.
Many ambulance and transport companies require that you have your ambulance license before applying. To get your ambulance license is quite simple and may vary depending on where you live. Refer to your state’s DMV website for a detailed outline on how to receive your ambulance license.
The requirements to apply for your ambulance license in California are:
- A completed Medical Examination Report (MER) Form (MCSA 5875) and Medical Examiner’s Certification (MEC) Form (MCSA 5876)
- Submit a completed Request for Live Scan Service Application (DMV 8016)
Be sure to keep a record of all your documents and note your license expirations.
After getting the 3 documents ready, you come to your local DMV and apply to take your Ambulance Driver Certification. It only involves a multiple choice exam. Once you begin to work, the driving and training to operate the ambulance will fall under the company you applied for.
Apply for a Job
After you have your EMT and ambulance drivers license, you are now able to apply to jobs.
Different companies require different documents. The main documents you should have on hand are:
- CA Driver License
- CA Ambulance Driver Certificate (or temporary license)
- Medical Examiner’s Certificate
- BLS Provider Card (CPR Certificate)
- CA EMT Certification (Gray Card)
- Driver History Report (Less than 30 days old)
The application process may also vary. It may include:
- Written Exam
- Skills & Agility Exam
- Oral Interviews
- EMS Training Academy
Once you have applied and accepted the job offer, you may now begin training and look forward to start working.
Once you get the job, the company should be training you to the standards expected of you and your role. Depending on the job, the trainings can vary in length and content. It can be like a mini crash course what what you learned in EMT school. This can include signing administrative documents, learning how to drive safely, the ePCR system, and content training. After that, you will be assigned some field training. This is where you are assigned to current EMTs and learn what and how they operate in the field. It is like ride-alongs done in EMT school, but more involved.
Once completed, you are ready to work on your own.
It is no longer field training. Now, it is the real deal. You will be scheduled with a partner. You have come a long way. Apply all the knowledge and skills you have learned so far. Continue to learn and hone your practical skills. And always ask questions if you are unsure. Even though training is over, there is always something to learn each and every day.
It may be daunting at first, but with time and practice as well as a positive mindset, I know you can be a good EMT.