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What Can a Paramedic Do?

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Updated July 05, 2008

Paramedic at WMD drill

Rod Brouhard coordinating patient transportation during a weapons of mass destruction drill

(c) Melanie Martinez
Question: What Can a Paramedic Do?
This isn't a question I get from readers as much as from people on the street. When I walk into a business wearing a jumpsuit with PARAMEDIC plastered across my back, folks get curious.
Answer: Paramedics in most states have pretty similar scopes of practice. Generally, they can:

What exactly a paramedic can do varies from country to country, state to state and even from county to county. The term paramedic refers to several levels of training.

It's important to figure out if we're talking about paramedics, or if we really are using a catch-all term relating to all emergency medical services personnel. Paramedics in the United States are just one type of emergency medical technician (EMT). Two other levels of EMT exist: EMT-Basic and EMT-Intermediate. To better understand the distinction, read The Difference Between an EMT and a Paramedic.

Paramedics practice what is known as advanced life support (ALS). As impressive as it sounds, in first aid the more basic the training, the more important the skill. For example, CPR is the most basic of all medical courses, but it is used when the heart stops - arguably the worst medical emergency possible.

The benefits of paramedics come after the basic life-saving has already happened. In fact, when a paramedic saves a life, there is a good chance it was by using basic skills rather than ALS. Advanced care helps victims stay alive once the good application of basic skills has pulled them from the brink of death (OK, it's a little melodramatic, but it's true).

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