- Manage emergency teams
- Do CPR
- Shock hearts
- Triage multiple victims
- Administer around 30 different medications
- Support breathing with tubes and ventilation devices
- Stick needles in the chest to decompress collapsed lungs
- Stick needles in the neck (or cut a hole) to make new airways
- Apply a variety of splints
- Deliver babies (not that babies would wait for a doctor anyway)
- Dress wounds and control bleeding
- Give fluid intravenously to treat shock or dehydration
- Stick needles in bone when veins aren't readily available
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).