Posts Tagged ‘ Education ’

Higher Education for Paramedics

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When you look at the education and responsibilities of paramedics you would think that they would be on the same pay level of registered nurses. The truth is that they are not. Where a registered nurse begins their career at roughly 20 dollars an hour, a paramedic begins at around 10 dollars and hour. The responsibilities that each holds is very similar. Nurses give medications and so do paramedics. Nurses preform assessments and so do paramedics. Both paramedics and nurses work in very stressful environments. In fact there are some things that paramedics do that nurses cannot. Paramedics have a standing set of protocols for certain situations. This means that they do not have to seek consultation from a doctor to administer medication. Nurses receive direct orders from doctors to administer medications to certain patients. So in an emergency situation the paramedic makes the decision of how to treat a patient and which medication to give the patient. Although the paramedic can contact the doctor by radio if they need consultation from a doctor about a special situation. Some treatments that paramedics can preform that nurses cannot include endotracheal intubation(placing a tube down someones throat when they have stopped breathing or are having extreme difficulty breathing) and chest decompression(When someones lung collapses inserting a needle in their chest to help re-inflate the lung). Don’t get me wrong I am grateful for what nurses do and everyone holds an integral place in the health care system, I am merely stating the facts and stating my side of the issue. On the other side there are many things that nurses have to do that paramedics do not.

Paramedics will run into anything from cardiac arrest and multiple patient car accidents to a simple skinned knee. You must walk into an extremely chaotic situation and be extremely calm and collected. You need to manage the situation and choose what is best for the patient(s). Paramedics also have the responsibility of choosing whether a critical patient be flown by helicopter from the scene or whether they be taken to the closest hospital. In many cases a patients life rest solely in the hands of a paramedic and his EMT partner. This contains extreme responsibility and the stress that accompanies it.

There are many reasons for this difference in pay between Nurses and paramedics but I will focus more on where I think the educational system is flawed and how it may be easily fixable. In order to be a registered nurse you must complete the required prerequisite classes, complete clinicals, and then pass the NCLEX. This generally takes 2 to 3 years  all together not including a wait list. Their education takes place at college or university. Classes are also done in normal college semester increments. They take the prerequisite classes for their program and generally takes about 1 to 1 1/2 years to complete them. The next 2 or so years is spent in clinical time where they get into the nitty gritty. I promise there is a point to this. Paramedics education consists of a total of 2 years. This is a solid two years of education without semesters because most paramedic programs are not run through colleges or universities. There are a few but most are licensure programs. Paramedics must complete a 4 month long EMT-B class followed by a state licensure exam. After they obtain their EMT-B license they can enroll in a paramedic course and this is 16 month program. This is a solid 16 months of classroom and clinical education of how to be a paramedic. After that they must take a state approved test to receive their license. So what all this means is that both Paramedics and nurses obtain close to the same length of training in their respected field. Paramedics have roughly 20 months of continuous year round training and RN’s have roughly 24 months of time invested but classes are broken into semesters.

I think that where the problem comes in is with the base of the education. Nurses receive a strong base education consisting of Anatomy, Physiology, Psychology, Sociology, etc. These are all formal college courses. Most paramedic programs do not require these base courses. I believe this plays somewhat into the lower pay range. If the paramedic programs were shifted completely towards a college based program where the education tends to be more formal and respected than you would see the pay increase. Also on top of the 20 months in school that paramedics currently partake in there would be an extra 1 to 1 1/2 years of prerequisite classes. This would make the paramedic program just as long as the nursing program.

I think that requiring a college education to be a paramedic would be a step in the right direction for the career. There are many other things that would have to be changed also in order to get the career where it needs to be. Not many people go toward paramedicine as a career due to the stress, low pay, and lack of career advancement. They use it as more of a stepping stone to bigger and better things. As with anything else education is the base, so if you build a strong base than it is easier to build on that. Higher education would increase the respect for paramedics and Hopefully the pay would increase also. Also this increased education would create more structure in the system and room for advancement. After all, the business of EMS is not shrinking and its not going away so improving the education is common sense.  With the Baby Boom generation getting older there is going to be a huge strain on the health care system including EMS. Modern EMS has made many advancements in the fairly short time that it has been around and there are still many improvements to be made in an already solid system.