Now an emergency room technician, Sean O’Driscoll has changed fields, paths and locations several times throughout his career. Sean has a varied resume, most of which can be contributed to following his active duty Navy wife from place to place.
“I have an Associate’s Degree in Culinary Arts and Restaurant Management, and I went to emergency medical technician (EMT) school in 2009,” he shared with the ExploreHealthCareers.org team. “I was tired and burnt out from doing manual labor and wanted a career that I could advance in, but was also something that wasn’t the same thing day after day.” Emergency medicine certainly fits that description.
Why emergency medicine?
Sean chose this field based on a love of emergency medicine and all that accompanies it. “Someone suggested I should go to school and become an EMT, and after looking into it, it really appealed to me.” Sean served on ambulance crews for a while and then decided he wanted something more challenging and diverse. That inspired his transition from an EMT working in an ambulance to an ER tech working in a hospital.
He’s currently an emergency room technician, and throughout the course of a day’s work can be found starting IVs, drawing blood, connecting patients to vital signs monitors and performing EKGs. He is also prepared to assist with cardiac and respiratory arrests, transport patients and helps to maintain the flow of the emergency room, stocking supplies and helping out with all levels of trauma patients that may roll through the doors.
Advice on getting started
“If you’re looking for a career that has excitement, adrenaline and organized chaos while you are learning and doing new things every day, emergency medicine is for you!” Sean says. “Not once have I regretted my decisions to become an EMT and work in emergency medicine.”
One thing Sean cautions others about is the difficulty of transferring from state to state. Though the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians strives to provide a uniform process, it isn’t that easy.
There are three commonly accepted levels of EMTs. Basic (B), Intermediate (I) and Paramedic (P) – though EMT-Is is not offered in all states, parts of it may be combined into the EMT-B or EMT-P training. A narrow majority of states accept National Registry EMT certification with additional training as reciprocity.
Staying up to date as an EMT
EMTs are required to recertify every few years, with some new changes introduced in 2019. The three models include the new National Continued Competency Program, the Traditional Model and recertification by exam.
The NCCP requires a total of 40 hours of continuing education, fulfilling three components; national, local or state and individual. In 2016, the national component required 20 hours and the other two required 10 hours each. The traditional method requires a total of 72 hours of continuing education, which includes a refresher course that makes up 24 of the required hours. EMTs must also pass a cognitive competency exam.
Sean follows DistanceCME for re-certification continuing education credits. He also stays up to date with emergency medicine news as pertains to EMTs by following NREMT and NAEMT. JEMS is another industry publication that provides useful information.
Other career options in emergency medicine
The Emergency Department of any hospital is incredibly busy. If you were to sit and count the number of different health care professionals that work or consult in the ER throughout the day, the number would really surprise you. Here is a look at some of the other options that interact with emergency medicine, after the EMTs bring in patients.
ER Nurses are well known, both from patients’ everyday experiences and thanks to several popular television series. Nursing assistants, however, are often overlooked. This critical role is filled by hardworking and caring individuals, who spend quite a bit of time with each patient. With minimal training and education required, this is a great way for people who are unsure if nursing is for them to get some firsthand experience in the field. They work under a licensed nurse and are supervised and assist patients with the performance of daily tasks including bathing, eating and getting dressed.
Physician assistants can get a lot of experience while working in the emergency department of their local hospital. In 2016, this was the highest ranking health care job and the career field is still rapidly growing. A physician assistant — sometimes mistakenly called a physician’s assistant — collaborates with a physician to provide quality health care and therefore several additional years of training and education are required. The tasks that physician assistants can do include conducting physical examinations, providing treatment and helping prevent disease.
Lots of help is needed in the emergency department, and medical assistants are key players in the game. As a medical assistant, you’ll help with administrative and clinical duties, stepping in where you are needed. You will need to have some training, though usually only a year or two are required. A job as a medical assistant would be a great option for someone who wants a career in emergency health care but must work while attending school.
Another crucial part of the ER team are phlebotomists. As a phlebotomist, you’ll be involved with most of the patients that come in. Blood tests are often critical in emergencies as blood type needs to be determined quickly to arrange for patients to receive blood immediately, or later on in surgery. Since many patients are afraid of needles, phlebotomists must be able to calm patients. Organization is key as the details of collection must be documented thoroughly.
There are several other health care professionals who work in and around the emergency department, sometimes every day and other times when the situation warrants. Consider this field if you’re looking for a working environment that’s fast-paced and intense, but also extremely rewarding.