Why choose EMS as a career?
Have you longed to feel that what you do makes a difference in this world? An EMS professional understands the impact of each decision made. Decisions that may make the difference between life and death, terror and confusion, or supportive comfort are made on a daily basis. There is no doubt of the impact an EMS professional has on peoples' lives. EMS is challenging on many levels. Every day is different, requiring the ability to quickly adapt to new environments and a wide variety of situations. Dedication, compassion, and responsibility are essential components in earning the privilege of helping people during what is often the most vulnerable time in their lives.
"I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. 'Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death."
- Thomas Paine (1737-1809)
This page will help you map a career path. In Colorado, all certification levels are regulated by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE). The CDPHE approves the education centers and sets the guidelines for the education programs and approves EMS curricula. Before you enroll in an EMS program at any level, it is strongly recommended that you research the education center. Contact the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Emergency Medical and Trauma Services section and inquire if the program you are interested in is recognized by the State of Colorado and is in good standing. Investigate the history of the program before you enroll. How long has it been in existence? What is their success rate on The National Registry exams? What is the EMS community's satisfaction with their graduates?
EMS began in 1966 with the publication of "Accidental Death and Disability: The Neglected Disease of Modern Society" by the National Academy of Sciences, National Research Council. This document, termed the "White Paper", identified the need for an EMS system and suggested guidelines for the development of these systems and for EMS education. Also in 1966 Congress passed the National Highway Safety Act, which established the US Department of Transportation (DOT). As charged by the Highway Safety Act, the DOT developed educational programs for the first Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) course and pilot Advanced Life Support (ALS) course and continues to develop and improve EMS educational curricula. Since the early days of EMS, the profession has continued to grow and expand. There are three primary levels of EMS providers: EMT, Intermediate and Paramedic. Within these levels are several additional courses that can modify the provider's level of practice. Get more information from the CDPHE.
The first step in an EMS career is to take a course in cardiopulmonary resuscitation or CPR. The course is usually eight hours in length and is taught in a variety of formats. Passing a CPR course at the healthcare provider level is a pre-requisite for the EMT course.
After you obtain your CPR completion card you are eligible to enroll in an EMT Basic program. This course is taught by a variety of hospitals and community colleges in the State of Colorado. The minimum State requirement is 110 hours. However, the more comprehensive courses average over 220 hours. HealthONE offers a variety of class formats and schedules from accelerated or full-time to part-time. Find a class with a schedule that works with your current life demands. During the EMT Basic course you will be introduced to patient assessment techniques, airway management skills, treatment of bleeding and shock, and some pharmacology.
Although not required by the State of Colorado, some EMT programs, such as HealthONE, offer clinical time in an emergency department and on an ambulance. These clinicals offer the student the opportunity to work in an acute care environment and to apply knowledge learned in the classroom. Ask the programs you are considering if they include clinical time as part of their course. Clinicals are an invaluable component of your educational experience. At the end of your EMT Basic course you are eligible to find employment as an EMT or to function with a volunteer EMS agency or fire service.
Employment as an EMT is most readily available with private ambulance companies. Paired with a Paramedic, you will have the opportunity to run calls and transport patients while building upon the foundation you received in your EMT course. Fire departments also employ EMT Basics, however the hiring process is usually more competitive. Emergency departments often employ EMTs, however these positions offer experience that is different from field care and may not prepare the EMT to meet the experience requirements for Paramedic programs.
During your first year of employment as an EMT there are several classes you should take. The IV Approval course is 24 hours in length. Completion of this course allows the EMT to start intravenous fluids (IV) and monitor patients who have IVs established. This course is usually offered during evenings or on weekends. Basic EKG courses are about 30 hours in length and introduce the EMT-B to interpretation of disturbance of cardiac rhythm. Both of these courses are prerequisites for many Paramedic programs. Find course availabilty at HealthONE EMS.
In addition to Basic EKG and IV Approval courses, those interested in continuing to the Paramedic level should enroll in college level anatomy and physiology (A&P) courses. The State of Colorado recommends Biology 201 and 202. Some community colleges, such as Arapahoe Community College, also offer online A&P courses. There are some abbreviated programs offered as substitutes for Biology 201 and 202. Students should be cautious enrolling in a non-standardized course since it will usually not be recognized by other colleges, paramedic programs, or count toward a later degree.
The EMT has a choice on how to proceed with EMS education. There are two levels of advanced life support (ALS) education. The EMT Intermediate course is a minimum of 225 hours of classroom and lab with 175 hours of clinical and field internship. The EMT-I course teaches advanced level assessment and advanced treatment skills to include a number of emergency medications. This level of certification is not utilized by most agencies providing ALS service in the metropolitan areas in Colorado. EMT Intermediates usually provide ALS in rural communities.
The Paramedic course is a minimum of 1,100 hours and includes 450 hours of classroom and lab, 150 hours in clinical areas and 500 hours of field internship with a paramedic preceptor. In addition to the minimum number of hours, specified numbers of patient assessments and ALS skills are required. The Paramedic is the highest level of provider for ALS services providing 911 emergency response.
All levels of certification require continuing education and recertification with the State of Colorado or the National Registry of EMTs. Providers are only allowed to function under a physician advisor and within the scope of practice which is established by the Colorado Board of Medical Examiners and regulated by local physician advisors.
Additional EMS Career Information
Paramedic Program Accreditation Information