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The Challenges of Becoming a First Responder

A lot of people looking to pursue a career that is as exciting as it is rewarding go into healthcare. The idea of making a real difference in people’s lives is a big draw for many medical professionals—especially for first responders like EMTs and paramedics.

As a medical first responder, you’re the first on the scene of emergencies. Your skills can potentially prevent situations from escalating and ultimately save lives. Your ability to provide life-saving care to patients makes a positive impact in their lives. As a career itself, first responders are very high in demand. In fact, the job outlook for EMTs and paramedics is poised to grow at a faster than average rate through 2029.

As rewarding as it is, however, it is not without its own set of challenges. If this is a career that you want to explore, familiarizing yourself with the potential difficulties you might face as an EMT or paramedic is important. Here are some you should consider:

1. First Responders Typically Work in Challenging Environments

Because paramedics and EMTs are usually the first responders in emergencies, they’re typically exposed to a lot of on-the-job hazards. In medical emergencies, you might be exposed to patients who carry contagious diseases if you don’t employ the necessary precautions. During the scene of an accident, you could find yourself in situations where a lot of heavy lifting is necessary to get to your patients, which could lead to injuries. If you work for a hospital, you’re constantly on call to respond to emergency calls.

While it’s true that these factors can be highly stressful for paramedics, getting the job done in spite of it can lend itself to a higher level of satisfaction. The skills you’re taught in school and the experience you gain on-the-job offer a lot of value, not just for your growth but for your community.

2. EMTs and Paramedics Work Long Hours

As you might have already assumed, working as a first responder means you will have to put in a lot of long hours on-the-job. You can’t predict emergencies, which means that EMTs and paramedics are usually on-call 24/7. Most people in this field work long shifts that can span 9 to 12 hours a day, although they also have the option to take several days off to rest after pulling in extended hours.

As grueling as this schedule seems, the ability to help others is an experience like no other for dedicated first responders. Your hours may be long and it can be exhausting, but that comes with a lot of satisfaction knowing that your job can make a definitive impact in the lives of the people you are trying to help save.

3. First Responders Undergo Tough Training

It should almost go without saying that emergency first responders have to go through stringent training. Your job is meant to save lives and that requires a very specific set of skills and education. Having the lives of the people you save in your hands means you have to do your due diligence to ensure the knowledge and techniques that you employ on the field are medically sound. Additionally, first responders must have enough experience and skills to be able to make major decisions on their feet—ones that could spell the difference between saving or losing a life.

No matter how tough the training is, however, any education you acquire in becoming a first responder can provide lots of valuable experience and skills that can help you grow in this industry. The skills that you learn as an EMT or paramedic open so many doors for you in the medical industry and can often become a good stepping stone for those who want to explore other careers in healthcare.

4. EMTs and Paramedics Are Exposed to a Lot of Emotional Trauma

The nature of the job itself means you will be exposed to a lot of situations where injuries, trauma, illness, and even death are common. This can take a toll on even the most emotionally strong and healthy individual. Managing the potential impact that this might have on your wellbeing can be very challenging. Then again, the rewards of being able to make a positive impact in your patients’ lives is a strong motivator for many first responders.

Additionally, the healthcare profession recognizes this as one of the primary challenges of working in this field and often provides a lot of access to counseling and emotional support for employees.

Bottom Line?

While there are many challenges of being a first responder, the positive aspects of becoming a paramedic or EMT far outweigh the cons. Recognizing what potential challenges you might face can help you anticipate and address the pitfalls and become successful in your field.