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Becoming an EMT or Paramedic: What You Need to Know

Looking to carve out a rewarding career path as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) or a Paramedic? Mark Browne, our President and Chief Operating Officer here at NDP EMS, shines a light on how to make it happen in this interview. Read on to learn more:


Mark, what inspired you to pursue a career in this field?

I actually followed in the footsteps of my grandfather, who was a life member of Rhinecliff Fire Department. In addition, I was influenced by friends who had become involved in the EMS division of the fire department. After joining the department myself at age 18, I got involved in EMS as that is where the bulk of the call volume is. I became a Paramedic and have since enjoyed a very fulfilling career that allows me to serve my community, work with a great group of colleagues, and make meaningful differences in people’s lives.


What qualities do you need to be successful on this career path?

Compassion and courage are the two most important qualities that people in our profession need to have. The ability to empathize with people is key, and to be brave enough to face challenging situations is likewise crucial to success.


Can you comment on the difference between an EMT and a Paramedic?

A Paramedic is first and foremost an EMT - without that basic skill set you cannot be an advanced provider. And once you have completed training to become a Paramedic, you have a specialized set of skills that include but are not limited to medication administration, cardiac monitoring and interpretation and interventions, and advanced airway management, among many other things.


What are the steps I need to take to become an EMT or Paramedic?

Some people may begin as certified first responders, and then get the EMT training (which takes about 8 weeks or more depending on where you complete the coursework and the curriculum layout, etc). As an EMT, you’ll have a deeper understanding of patient stabilization and treatment than certified first responders do. After gaining designation as an EMT, you can work toward becoming a Paramedic. It can take an additional 1-2 years to earn certification as a Paramedic - it is more of a college-level course that is taught in conjunction with an institution of higher education. It can, however, be done while one is working part- or full-time, which is most often the case as we all need to keep paying our bills!


I do want to note that we offer EMT training right here at NDP EMS. People can reach out to us anytime to learn more about our programs.


Are there ongoing continuing education requirements?

Yes, the State has ongoing CME requirements for EMTs and Paramedics; we offer most of that training here at NDP EMS as well and it is open to everyone, regardless of whether or not you are employed by our company. The continuing ed mandates are based on a three-year cycle; some people are diligent and get it done early and others spread it out over the course of their 3-year term. It’s very flexible which is nice.


Given the physical nature of this line of work, is there any kind of fitness exam?

The work is physical but there are no specific exams or requirements. It is critical, of course, that you can fulfill the job functions, and especially that you can safely move a patient without hurting yourself or the patient.


Where can I get training, and how long will the training take to complete?

Most of the initial and CME training can be done right here at our NDP EMS headquarters (3 Hook Road, Rhinebeck New York). People come from all over the Hudson Valley, Connecticut, and beyond to attend our classes; they are open to everyone. We have a few certified instructor coordinators who make sure we are offering comprehensive training, whether it is in person or online. Some classes are condensed, so you might take an EMT class 3 times a week for 6 weeks, while other options spread it out more. There is something for everyone depending on other responsibilities that people might have to balance with their training.


If I relocate, will my certifications transfer?

In NY State and Connecticut, when you take your exams, you have an option to take the National Registry Exam, which I recommend. Most states will accept those who are part of that National Registry group, so you’ll have more freedom to move around if you wish. Likewise, New York State and Connecticut both accept the National Registry from EMTs and Paramedics transferring from out of state.


Can you comment on what makes people successful in their roles as EMTs and Paramedics? It’s all about attitude - showing up, no matter what the context, with a genuine desire to help people. Every call is a chance to make a difference in someone’s life, and you need to approach each call with that in mind. Some of our calls are high-adrenaline and others are low acuity, but all of the calls give us a chance to make someone else’s day a little better in some way. If you create a positive experience for the patient and/or family, by proxy you do the same for yourself.


What advancement opportunities typically exist in this field? We have many people who love what they do and stay in their roles for decades, while others might explore administrative/leadership roles or pursue careers as nurses, PAs, MDs, NPs, or typically something else that is health-related.


Words of advice for a prospective EMT or Paramedic?

If you’re looking for a career that’s very rewarding and has potential to be even more rewarding, this is a great opportunity. We show up for people and get to help them through some of their worst days, hopefully making things better for them - and there are few things in life that feel more purposeful than that.


Learn more about working for NDP EMS at ndpems.com/careers.