Expanding Our Career Options – Non-Traditional EMS Jobs

In my decade or so working in EMS, I’ve had the chance to ply my paramedic skills in more places than the back of an ambulance. I’ve been employed as an ER technician, which is of course the usual suspect for a paramedic looking to move their career options from more than just “The back of the truck” and “the front of the truck”, I’ve been employed as a security guard *slash* paramedic for a hospital chain that ran an ambulance service using their security department, and I’ve worked as a paramedic in an urgent care clinic. I think that EMTs and paramedics can and should expand their career options and that to do so, we’ve got to take a few collective steps.

The professional knowledge, skills, and abilities held by a paramedic combined with the unique personal characteristics of successful EMS people makes our profession a valuable resource to a wide variety of potential employers. These employers, beyond the traditional ambulance services, fire departments, and emergency healthcare providers, stand to benefit greatly from opening their hiring processes to paramedics, as does our profession and the general public. Imagine one day that you’ll type in the word “Paramedic” into your favorite job search engine and have more options available to you than you’ve ever thought possible. Imagine that one day when you’ve progressed to a point in your career where the prospect of getting up at all hours of the day and night no longer sounds like a good idea you would be able to get a job that is a better fit to your personality and your unique set of side skills. I say that our ability to improvise, to think quickly on our feet, and to make solid decisions based upon our knowledge base and experiences in the face of limited and evolving information are useful to business in this day and age. 

At the urgent care clinic where I worked, there rarely was a call for my advanced life support skills. Rather we had the run-of-the mill cases that would come into the clinic for immediate-access primary care. My skills at patient history-taking, assessment, triage, and bandaging got a work-out. So did my skills in relating to patients on a personal level and interfacing with patients and their families across the demographic spectrum. I also learned how to prepare, acquire, and process various laboratory tests including point-of-care testing for common conditions and how to properly obtain and prepare samples for advanced labs. Surprisingly perhaps, I got a great deal more practice drawing-up, mixing, and administering medications more so than I ever have in the field. Working with the doctors greatly improved my skills as a diagnostician and has helped me immeasurably in my ambulance practice. (Yes, I said “my ambulance practice”) I highly recommend for both Urgent Care Clinics as well as for paramedics to explore this wonderful partnership. 

What that experience taught me is that I could “fit” into that job description as a paramedic, it also taught me that there was a learning curve in moving out of the ambulance arena and into a clinical one. In my secret squirrel job that I don’t put out here on the blog, I use my healthcare background as a statistician and data management guru of sorts to help make decisions for a large organization assisting a lot of smaller ones and dealing with a lot of people. There was a learning curve there too, but my experience as a paramedic with knowledge of the real-world of healthcare makes a huge difference and brings a lot to the table. Nurses have expanded into this role for quite a while, and a lot of organizations from Education to Public health employ nurses in a lot of capacities apart from their traditional role as a bedside caregiver. Paramedics and EMTs can and should do this as well.

Previously, I had envisioned a certification as a “Clinical Paramedic” to provide paramedics with the knowledge and skills required to function in a physician’s office setting. I still believe that having additional certifications that build upon our initial licensure and education is the way to go. Imagine that once you attain your initial paramedic education there would be multiple educational options for you to choose from that would lead to a wide variety of career paths. You could be a “Public Health” paramedic working in the inner city to improve health standards and access to care, you could be a “Clinical Paramedic” staffing a clinic, working in primary or specialty healthcare, or you could be some type of “Specialty Paramedic” working perhaps as a liaison with children with special healthcare needs for a community organization. The possibilities are literally endless if we dare to explore our options and trumpet our strengths as a profession to the masses.

In order to do this, we’ll have to fall back on the “We Need More Education” answer as well as exploring how our licensing bodies will have to modify our legal scope of practice to allow us to function in these roles. I’m afraid that we’ll have to fight to “own” our licenses like the nurses do (and AmboDriver, you could weigh in on this) but the fight will be worth it.

I’d love to hear from my readers about how they apply their EMS skills in a manner outside of our traditional role. This is a subject area where I believe our brethren in the volunteer part of our industry can assist us greatly in explaining how their EMS training helps them in their primary occupation. If you are an EMT, Paramedic, jump in and help move us forward. What would do as a medic and what would you like to be doing tomorrow?

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  • http://www.alteredmentalstatus.com/ KYLE

    I have to respectfully disagree with you. As EMS providers as a whole we need to focus on improving our core competencies before we even consider expanded scope/certification.

    Prehospital care has come a long way since I started in this field 17 years ago. That being said we still have a long way to go. Maybe once we have brought the delivery of services to the level they need to be at we can consider expanding our role. Doing so now would be premature.

  • medichick

    This was a much needed topic in my life. I have relocated and in this state it is very hard to get a job as a Paramedic!!! So I need to refocus my skills and find creative ways to use them. I typed in Paramedic as a key search word, and an anesthesiologist assistant came up!!!! I loved the OR while doing my clilnicals years ago, and would not mind that job!! So in a nut shell, yes while I will keep my CME's as a medic going, [the day I think I know it all is the day I retire], I may focus more on alternatives and part time medic.

  • klindholmemt

    I am a recent BSN college graduate about to take my nursing boards, and have been a paramedic for going on 4 years. I have over 5 years of ER tech experience and 2 years on a 911 service. My problem now is there is still the lack of recognition of a EMT-P being equal to an RN. I am currently RN job searching, and consider myself experienced, (more than my other classmates), however the general consensuses is that I am completely without any experience. My point (if you're wondering), is for a paramedic to try and expand their role into other settings, we face a big challenge of RNs etc recognizing that we are their equal, and not just a certified inferior.

  • medic_diver

    I agree that those in EMS should look at areas to diversify. I don't agree with the comment that we all need to improve our core competencies before even thinking of branching out. (I do agree with part of that statement). A new EMT may want to get some street experience before entering Paramedic school. (I've seen EMTs that couldn't take a BP that entered Paramedic school) Also, those that are in EMS leadership that work on helping us gain acceptance in the medical community (by advancing our field in numerous ways) should continue to do so. There are enough of us in EMS to make it possible for some to stay in traditional roles (and improve their competencies, either individually, or for our field as a whole) and for some to move on and diversify. As a Paramedic with 20 years experience, I feel that I am ready to diversify. I've had extensive positions in the medical field outside of EMS prior to gaining my RN degree. There are many in EMS that can say the same thing as me. I also agree with Klindholmemt that RNs do not appreciate EMT-P's skills, scope of practice and knowledge. Most RNs know very little about the job description of an EMT-P, yet most EMT-Ps have a very good idea about what RNs know and do. RNs often make the mistake that years in class equals competency. More degrees does not equal better care, more experience does. Education doesn't hurt, but its not a cure-all. From my personal experience, years in practice (especially autonomous practice) equals a greater education than years in school. EMT-Ps have much more freedom to make decisions and must rely on their own knowledge and sklls much more than most RNs. This environment seems to “force” a person to gain competency rather quickly, and seems to encourage more rapid growth in skill development, especially when considering the difficult/varied environments an EMT-P must perform in.

    • dave

      I have been a paramedic for 18 years and have spent a lot of time working with rn’s and I must say I couldn’t agree with you more. You have put your thoughts in a very “pc” way. I would have said that rn’s are disalusioned into thinking they are far more qualified and advanced then paramedics, yet if you put most rn’s on a squad, they would fall on their faces, a kind of wake up call. maybe they should make it part of their ciriculum. Thanx for putting that out there. Many of us feel the same.

  • michellek2k

    I think this is a great topic. Having moved states I needed to find a job using my skills. I found one in a family practice office doing “nursing skills”. While employed they trained me in x-ray, drug and alcohol testing, phlebotomy, and several other skills I wouldn't of learned in a truck. I still ran EKG, gave injections, meds, took vitals, Started IV’s and did many of the skills I did in the field. The number of low paying medic jobs are not overflowing here and I think it's great for companies to open there minds and consider medics for other things then the ambulance. I think the more experiences you have the better medic you’ll be.

  • http://www.alteredmentalstatus.com/ KYLE

    I have to respectfully disagree with you. As EMS providers as a whole we need to focus on improving our core competencies before we even consider expanded scope/certification.

    Prehospital care has come a long way since I started in this field 17 years ago. That being said we still have a long way to go. Maybe once we have brought the delivery of services to the level they need to be at we can consider expanding our role. Doing so now would be premature.

  • medichick

    This was a much needed topic in my life. I have relocated and in this state it is very hard to get a job as a Paramedic!!! So I need to refocus my skills and find creative ways to use them. I typed in Paramedic as a key search word, and an anesthesiologist assistant came up!!!! I loved the OR while doing my clilnicals years ago, and would not mind that job!! So in a nut shell, yes while I will keep my CME's as a medic going, [the day I think I know it all is the day I retire], I may focus more on alternatives and part time medic.

  • klindholmemt

    I am a recent BSN college graduate about to take my nursing boards, and have been a paramedic for going on 4 years. I have over 5 years of ER tech experience and 2 years on a 911 service. My problem now is there is still the lack of recognition of a EMT-P being equal to an RN. I am currently RN job searching, and consider myself experienced, (more than my other classmates), however the general consensuses is that I am completely without any experience. My point (if you're wondering), is for a paramedic to try and expand their role into other settings, we face a big challenge of RNs etc recognizing that we are their equal, and not just a certified inferior.

  • medic_diver

    I agree that those in EMS should look at areas to diversify. I don't agree with the comment that we all need to improve our core competencies before even thinking of branching out. (I do agree with part of that statement). A new EMT may want to get some street experience before entering Paramedic school. (I've seen EMTs that couldn't take a BP that entered Paramedic school) Also, those that are in EMS leadership that work on helping us gain acceptance in the medical community (by advancing our field in numerous ways) should continue to do so. There are enough of us in EMS to make it possible for some to stay in traditional roles (and improve their competencies, either individually, or for our field as a whole) and for some to move on and diversify. As a Paramedic with 20 years experience, I feel that I am ready to diversify. I've had extensive positions in the medical field outside of EMS prior to gaining my RN degree. There are many in EMS that can say the same thing as me. I also agree with Klindholmemt that RNs do not appreciate EMT-P's skills, scope of practice and knowledge. Most RNs know very little about the job description of an EMT-P, yet most EMT-Ps have a very good idea about what RNs know and do. RNs often make the mistake that years in class equals competency. More degrees does not equal better care, more experience does. Education doesn't hurt, but its not a cure-all. From my personal experience, years in practice (especially autonomous practice) equals a greater education than years in school. EMT-Ps have much more freedom to make decisions and must rely on their own knowledge and sklls much more than most RNs. This environment seems to “force” a person to gain competency rather quickly, and seems to encourage more rapid growth in skill development, especially when considering the difficult/varied environments an EMT-P must perform in.

  • michellek2k

    I think this is a great topic. Having moved states I needed to find a job using my skills. I found one in a family practice office doing “nursing skills”. While employed they trained me in x-ray, drug and alcohol testing, phlebotomy, and several other skills I wouldn't of learned in a truck. I still ran EKG, gave injections, meds, took vitals, Started IV’s and did many of the skills I did in the field. The number of low paying medic jobs are not overflowing here and I think it's great for companies to open there minds and consider medics for other things then the ambulance. I think the more experiences you have the better medic you’ll be.

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  • Timothy Szanyi

    30 years as a paramedic, 20 years of that time spent in E R’s. Tying to get all my ducks to line up so as to pursue the one year paramedic to nursing program at georgia highlands. Nursing education was primarily carried out in hospitals and received the diploma nurse degree. I have experienced the outcome working in the past with diploma nurses and never once had I worked with an incompetent nurse. Now either I have become much smarter with time spent in hospital ED’s or these college graduate nurses are just not learning or are not experiencing the whole hands on practice. I really and truly believe that this program ( Diploma Nurse ) should be put back in place, because I know these 4 year college nursing students are not stupid, you really have to be smart to make it through or even to become accepted; yet as time moves on and there aren’t too many Diploma Nurses out there like there used to be I have seen and witnessed too many college nurses that just don’t have real nursing skills. Again I know a lot of college nurses who really do perform and have the skills to do their jobs proficiently yet the majority of these nurses are just poorly trained and it is not their fault but the responsibility of the college to correct this improper method of teaching. There are a few diploma nursing schools that remain and we really need them back in place quickly so as to give the care that is needed for good nursing practice…

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Chris Kaiser aka "Ckemtp"

I am a paramedic trying to advance the idea that the Emergency Medical Services can be made into the profession that we all want it, need it, and know it deserves to be.

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  • Comments
    mr618
    Welcome to the Club
    Well said, Chris. We can't save everybody, but the ones we don't save tend to stick around a lot longer than the ones we do save.
    2014-10-18 14:40:00
    Steel City Medic
    Welcome to the Club
    Particularly appropriate for me this week. Thanks.
    2014-09-23 21:46:00
    DiverMedic
    Welcome to the Club
    Very well done, Chris.
    2014-09-17 22:15:00
    DiverMedic
    My Blogroll
    One of these days you'll figure out where my blog is... :)
    2014-09-17 22:11:00
    emtterri123
    Six Tricks You Can Use Today to Improve Your EMS Narrative Report
    The first and best way to get people reading you to think that you are an idiot is to pepper your writing with spelling and grammatical errors. It makes you look dumb. - Me thinks this should have been restructured as it does not flow and caused me to reread it several times. lol :)
    2014-09-17 08:27:00

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