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Telling the Difference Between an EMT and a Paramedic

Updated on January 15, 2015

EMT and Paramedic

Ever wonder what the difference is between an EMT and a paramedic. Each of these jobs has it's own scope of practice. Here is how each of them works and how to tell them apart.


EMT stands for Emergency Medical Technician and these are people that respond to emergency situations. This can be a fire, car accident, flood, hurricane or other major event where there are injuries or people in need of help. There are several levels of EMTs and only the top level is considered to be a paramedic.

The first level of EMT arrives on the scene and they have basic first aid and CPR skills. Firefighters and police officers have this type of training. In most cases it’s the firefighters that will administer aid before more help can arrive if needed. Most EMT’s can’t address major problems with a person and they will need further assistance. An ambulance driver will usually be an EMT of level 2 or 3 and there will be at least one EMT 4 or paramedic that comes with the ambulance. In some cases the ambulance will have two paramedics but this often depends on the nature of the emergency situation. The EMT 2 or 3 is intermediate training but they can use more advanced equipment such as a defibrillator or help administer IV fluids to the patient, EMTs of a level 2-3 understand trauma and can help stabilize patients for transport.


Paramedics are EMTs but they are the top level and they have the most advanced skills. They can provide advanced medical procedures if needed to save the person’s life in the field. Paramedics can dispense medications and assist with some cardiac problems as well. They aren’t full doctors but they can provide tremendous help for the patient prior to arriving at the hospital.

During the trip to the hospital the patient may need advanced medical care and the paramedic can administer some of this care. Often in accidents every minute counts, so the paramedic has the most advanced skills to get the patient to the hospital so the doctors can work on the person. The paramedic works to stabilize the patient on the way to the hospital.

In many cases the paramedic is the first on the scene after the firefighters or police and they work quickly to assess the situation and get thе patient ready for transport. They may give orders to other EMTs to offer assistance. In some cases the paramedics make difficult decisions if the patient is under a life threatening situation, they may have to work to save the person’s life without advanced medical care that the hospital can provide. Paramedics play a crucial role in saving the lives of countless individuals who find themselves in serious accidents.

Same Job but Different Skills

The EMT is therefore trained to give medical care to people but there are several levels of EMTs. The top level of EMT is the paramedic and it’s the paramedic that is trained in the most advanced care and can often save a person’s life or stabilize them enough on the trip to the hospital.

The Value Of Trauma Training

When talking about causes of death the bottom line is; if the tissues of the body, most importantly the brain, do not get enough oxygen they die. When the tissue dies completely there is no recovery.

Oxygen is supplied to the tissues of the body from the circulating blood. If blood volume is decreasing rapidly an EMT will work quickly to stop the blood loss or at least reduce it and possibly replace the volume loss with the use of IV fluids.

Sometimes in traumatic events an individual will be impelled by some object. Often the best thing to do without the knowledge and tools available to a doctor is to leave the object where it is and treat the other symptoms so the patient doesn't lose too much blood before receiving proper treatment. There may be appropriate times to remove the object and apply proper pressure or bandages.

If an individual has drown in water to the point of unconsciousness the blood volume is stable but the pathway of oxygen getting into the blood stream has been blocked by the water. The patients lungs are filled with water, the oxygen can't get into the blood stream and the blood is no longer caring oxygen to the brain, therefore the individual has lost consciousness. An EMT would perform CPR in order to both clear the lungs of some of the fluid as well as to restart the oxygenation process by pushing oxygenated air into the lungs with a bag or mouth to mouth and then physically pumping the heart by performing chest compressions to move the blood through the body. If this process is not started within a few minutes the likelihood of a strong recovery is very slim.

Similar to drowning is strangulation. The loss of consciousness is due to the lack of oxygen getting to the brain simply because the pathway of blood flow has been restricted. Once the restriction has been removed the blood flow can re-oxygenate the brain but it must happen very soon after the restriction has taken place or the tissue may die completely.

Sometimes people experience physical trauma in the form of an aneurism or stroke which in some sense is a combination of the above mentioned scenarios, either blood flow has been restricted or blood is being lost in a crucial part of the body which then applies pressure on the brain. Either way it creates an issue preventing proper oxygenation of the brain. Those types of scenarios require medical interventions that an EMT may get started but will require a doctors level of expertise to continue treatment.

How to Become an EMT

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      Me 3 years ago

      New direct entry medics are failed emts.they could not cope with emt training in the old ihcd style two yrs