Paramedics are not medical doctors but they are adequately trained to recognize and respond to the most vital needs of those who are in need of immediate medical attention at emergency sites. In emergency situations, paramedics are dispatched by operators to the scene, where they coordinate with police officers and at times, with fire fighters. Because they are the first medical professionals who come face-to-face with the injured or sick, paramedics are considered as the main providers of on-site medical care.
Once paramedics arrive to the scene, they first assess the conditions surrounding the situation. Is the environment safe for both the paramedics and patients? Is there anything in the environment that poses more or continuous risk to the patients, necessitating further actions before actually giving initial treatments? When safety is ensured, paramedics assess the condition of the patient and consider the seriousness of the condition or extent of the injuries. The existence of any pre-existing medical conditions is also determined to ensure that the patient is not exposed to further harm. Based on their observations, appropriate emergency care is provided to ensure that the patient’s needs for life – oxygen, breathing and blood circulation are given and stabilized. Although they do not treat or cure injuries and illnesses, paramedics operate in emergency medical service systems supervised and guided by physicians.
The overall role and responsibility of paramedics is to stabilize patients before they are transported to the hospital where more invasive and aggressive treatments are provided. Patients are safely and securely immobilized through special equipment as they are transported to medical facilities by ambulances, helicopters or boats. The mode of transport greatly depends on the situation and location of the patients. During transport, continuous care is provided by one of the team members.
A paramedic’s job does not end after the patient transport. At medical facilities, paramedics report their assessment findings to the emergency department staff. The report would also include the treatments initially provided to the patient. Administration of additional treatments may also be necessary. After each trip, paramedics are also tasked to document the run, check the equipment and replace the supplies used. If the patient who was transported is suspected of a communicable disease, the interior of the transportation used is decontaminated and a report is made to authorities.
The roles and responsibilities of paramedics may vary from state to state. Emergency medical technicians, which include the paramedics, are may administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation or defibrillation, administer oxygen, control bleeding, bandage wounds, immobilize injured body parts, insert intravenous catheters and administer medications. In contrast to other members of the emergency medical team, paramedics are trained to deliver more advanced patient emergency care.
To become a paramedic, various institutions are offering paramedic programs. Paramedic classes are conducted in community colleges and technical schools. Some institutions are also offering paramedic courses online. An associate degree in paramedic is obtained after two years of formal education and training.