First responders are the medically trained individuals who arrive at the scene of an emergency before anyone else. These professionals are generally emergency medical technicians (EMTs), paramedics, police officers, or firefighters. From providing lifesaving care to securing the scene, it takes the right person with the right training to fit the job. Here are four steps that you can expect to take on the path to becoming a first responder.
1. Have the Prerequisites
You might be wondering, “What does it take to become a first responder?” To start, you should possess the qualities of someone who responds well in emergency situations. As the first person on the scene, you will be required to perform preliminary assessments and act quickly. First responders must be great communicators, empathetic towards victims, and have the physical fitness needed for the job. First responders must be quick thinkers and be willing to take initiative, all while remaining calm and level-headed.
Besides having the right qualities for the job, candidates planning to enter a first responder program must have a high school diploma or have passed the G.E.D. test. If you’re interested in becoming a first responder, consider aligning your high school coursework with classes to familiarize yourself with human anatomy or medical procedures and equipment used in emergencies.
2. Undergo Necessary Training
No matter the career path you choose, there will be extensive training to ensure you’re well equipped to perform the job. Police officers and firefighters will complete additional training for their particular roles but will also be trained to respond to medical emergencies. EMTs will complete training at a decided level (basic, intermediate or paramedic) at a community college or vocational school. A quick Google search can help you find a training program near you. Coursework will cover how to react in situations like trauma, respiratory distress and cardiac arrest. You will also learn how to use various equipment like suction devices, defibrillators, backboards and IVs. Paramedics complete additional training focused on anatomy, physiology, pharmacology and resuscitation. Overall, the coursework is challenging in order to prepare you for the rigor of being a first responder.
During your training, you will have the opportunity to shadow someone on the job to obtain practical or “real-life” experience. However, in order to obtain knowledge for various situations, much of your training will be done through virtual simulations. For example, TacMed Solutions offers innovative medical simulations, such as their TraumaFX training which helps prepare you for the job of a first responder and to improve the overall survivability of victims in emergencies.
3. Take the Tests for Certification
Once you’ve completed your training, you will need to obtain a license to work as a first responder. To be eligible to take the certification exam, all states require applicants to be at least 18 years old and to have completed their approved coursework. It’s important to note that added credentials may vary from state to state.
The licensure exam to become an EMT consists of both a written and a hands-on practical portion. Be sure to review your coursework and training as needed to prepare for the test. Additionally, there are a variety of study tools and practice tests available to help you ace the exam.
4. Continue to Learn
Once you’ve passed the certification exam, your initial license is valid for one year. You will then be required to renew your certification every two years through either a retest or continued education. For example, the American Red Cross offers CPR recertification classes that are applicable for license renewal. As technology changes and more research becomes available, it is important to stay up to date on the best life-saving tactics to use as a first responder. It also doesn’t hurt to be retrained in the best practices to use during an emergency.
You may also consider seeking additional training to advance your career: perhaps you’re a basic EMT and hope to become a paramedic, dispatcher or manager. Or, maybe you discover exactly what you love about being an EMT and choose a different career path as a police officer, firefighter, nurse or doctor.
Be Prepared for the Job as First Responder
As a first responder, you will be one of the first people on the scene of an emergency. It should come as no surprise that your role will be a challenging one: your response can make the difference in saving someone’s life. While it can be rewarding, it is also important to understand the realities of the job. However, with the right training, you can be sure you’ve got the knowledge and skills to respond effectively in a variety of emergency situations.