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I'm glad they went to EMT school

Updated on July 7, 2011

A few months ago, I had a traumatic experience with my diabetic aunt who lives with me.  Her blood sugar level had dipped below to a point where she was near-coma and I could not help her as in previous times where I gave her something sweet like Sprite to raise her sugar level.  So I had to call 911 for ambulance dispatching.  During the ride to the emergency room, the paramedics gave her something to raise her blood sugar level.  By the time we arrived at the hospital, she was coherent and was stable.

My aunt is fine now.  She continues to go to her dialisys on her own.  But things would have been different had she not received the proper care from the EMT (emergency medical technician) at the right time. 

An ambulance ride along

On the way to the emergency room, I was asked to ride in the ambulance to accompany my aunt. Which I thought was a pretty neat experience notwithstanding my aunt's medical situation. It was neat because I got to ride shotgun. If you're not familiar with the term "riding shotgun," it's a shortcut for the front passenger side. This gave me a first hand observation of what an ambulance driver goes through whenever he or she is driving in an emergency situation.

What's eye-opening during this ride was the amount of drivers who do not pull over whenever an ambulance is rushing to the hospital. You'd think that people would already know what to do when they see an ambulance disptaching through the streets. To the contrary, the EMT often had to use the loud speaker to direct drivers to pull aside.

I suppose that at intersections, most drivers do not know how to act whenever they hear the sound of a siren. For me, most times, I don't move until the ambulance had passed by. But in the streets, I do my best to pull to the right.

What most of the drivers did was stop in the middle of the road, perhaps hoping that the ambulance would swerve around them. Not so. Many of those who stopped in the middle was asked to move. Thus, "Xterra, pull to the right!" still rings in my head. Apparently, such experience is not unique and happens quite often.

How to become an EMT

I rode shotgun on the ambulance twice that day. The first time was the initial trip to the closest emergency room as directed by my aunt's primary care hospital. The second time was when my aunt was transferred to her primary care hospital after she was stabilized by the initial emergency room.

The second time around was clearly a different mood. I was having conversation with the EMT. He talked about him becoming a paramedic as the next step in his career. And how he attended EMT school right after high school. A high school diploma seems to be the minimum education requirement to an EMT training program.

According to, the general career progress path is as follows:

  • EMT Basic
  • EMT Intermediate
  • Paramedic

Certification and licenses are governed by different states. Thus, it pays to attend a school or training program in the state where you want to work and live. By that, I mean that you don't have to attend an international program or an out-of-state school for training. And I'm not sure if it would help either.

EMT pay

I'm impressed by the profession. I already have relatives in the health care industry, mostly as nurses. Paramedics and EMT seem to be another career path. Actually, it is one that I'll be suggesting to my nephew to explore. It's a respectable, honest work with decent pay. Actually, with the growing demand for health care, it should have an average to higher-than-average growth rate and pay scale.

From what I gather, each EMT or paramedic works in shifts that could be up to 72 hours. This means that they stay on-duty in a station where they eat and sleep with other EMT / paramedics. When someone calls 911 for their services, then the EMT / paramedics rush to the scene. Just like firemen. When they're not on-duty, then depending on staffing resources, they could be on-call while away from the station.

Consequently, the average EMT wage for 2008 is $15.38 / hour or $31,980 / year. This figure seems low, but there are various factors at play for this figure. Location has a lot to do with how much an EMT / paramedic earns. There's also the possibility of working another shift in the week for a different company to earn extra pay.


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    • reagu profile image

      reagu 8 years ago from Los Angeles

      I share your sentiments. I thought they were making more per hour and was surprised after seeing the numbers from

    • Michael Shane profile image

      Michael Shane 8 years ago from Gadsden, Alabama

      Great hub! I agree EMT's are underpaid!