If you are interested in the medical field, but you are not yet sure whether or not you want to commit to it as a career, it is worthwhile considering becoming a volunteer EMT. There are, naturally, a number of requirements that you may need to meet, but it is good way to enter this field without committing to a long-term contract. This is often cited as the best way to get a feel for the medical industry.
How To Become A Volunteer EMT
Step # 1: First Aid CPR Certification
Obviously to be an EM, even as a volunteer, you will need to have certain basic skills related to the health care field. To be a volunteer EMT you need to get your basic first aid and CPR certification. If you are unable to perform such basic tasks at the scene of a medical emergency you will be unlikely to be able to help the patient in any meaningful way. You can get this training from the American Red Cross or a local training organization. First aid training will include:
- Knowing how to perform CPR
- Knowing how to clear an airway obstruction
- Knowing how to respond to anaphylactic shock
- Knowing how to splint a broken bone
- Knowing how to control severe bleeding
Step # 2: Training
Once you have completed your basic courses in CPR and in first aid you will need to complete an EMT training course that will properly prepare you for the job and that will allow you to become certified in the career. These courses can vary in length substantially. Longer courses tend to be more comprehensive and offer a better grounding for those who want to begin their voluntary work with a firm understanding of what the job entails. These courses will cost money. This means that at some point along the way you will need to decide whether or not becoming a volunteer EMT is worth the time and money that you will need to put into the career. These courses are offered most frequently by community colleges. There are three main different levels in the EMT field:
EMT-basic is all you really need to be a volunteer EMT, but if you have a more advanced qualification you will be better equipped to help others as well as better equipped to find a good volunteer position.
Step # 3: Exam
Just because you are employed as a volunteer does not mean that you do not need to meet national standards and have the skills required by the government of all EMTs. Consequently you will be required to pass the EMT examination regardless of whether or not you are planning to work in a volunteer position or in a paid position once you are certified. This exam is offered by the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians. There are usually fees involved in applying to write this examination.
Note: If at this point you are beginning to feel that you are not sure whether being a volunteer EMT is worth all of the training and effort, remember that you can always apply for paid positions in addition to the volunteer work that you plan to do. Many volunteer EMTs have a regular EMT job in addition to which they volunteer with and organization or society which is underserved and which needs additional EMTs on a part-time and voluntary basis in order to function properly. Very few people only volunteer as EMTs as they also have ‘day jobs’.
Step # 4: Certification/Licensure
The next step involves becoming licensed as an EMT. Most states require that volunteer EMTs have a license. The application process varies from state to state, but the supervisor of your volunteer EMT organization should be able to provide you with information on what you need to do to get your license. It will, however, still be mostly up to you to determine what requirements you will need to meet for your specific state before applying for licensure. The U.S. Department of Labor says that all 50 states require some type of certification, but specifics vary based on location. In most states you will need to go through the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians in order to become certified. All of the information about this will be provided by your course convener. If it does not form part of the classroom discussion, you will still be able to ask your course convener after the lesson about what requirements you will need to meet in your particular state in order to become certified or licensed and begin working as a volunteer EMT.
Step # 5: Agencies
This step involves finding out what agencies in your area could use a volunteer EMT and what you will need to do in order to apply for a position as a volunteer at that agency. You can search for positions at:
- Your local fire department
- Your local hospitals
- Your local ambulance companies
- You can also search online through websites such as Volunteer Match
The best way to go about selecting a position is by contacting each of the facilities in your area where you may be able to work as a volunteer. Find out, firstly, if they do, in fact, need volunteers. Then go on to ask them about what hours you will need to work in order to be a volunteer there, as well as the shifts. Specific procedures and protocols followed at that particular facility also play a role, so ask about these as well. In this regard it will be helpful to decide before looking for a volunteer position how many hours a week you will be able to commit to voluntary work so that you can narrow down your options more quickly.
Step # 6: Application
Fill out an application at the agencies that are compatible with your personal schedule and needs. Remember that there may be slightly different application criteria that you will need to meet for each different facility that you are interested in volunteering at. Consequently you need to have a clear idea of what those criteria are as well as of your ability o adhere to them or not. If you apply to multiple agencies and are accepted by more than one, you can either choose the one that works best for you or do some volunteer work at both. It is recommended that you apply to at least three different agencies. This will help you to keep your options open. Often your first choice will not accept you simply because they do not need any volunteer EMTs at that point in time. You will then have to start the application process all over again at a different facility. To speed things up, apply to several agencies and then choose from among those that accept your application.
Example Of Entry Requirements And Application Process
Although there may be different requirements and procedures for becoming a volunteer EMT in different states and with different organizations, the following are usually true. Minimum requirements include:
- Being 18 years of age at time of appointment
- Being a United States Citizen
- Passing a written and physical ability test
- Passing a background check
- Passing a Medical exam and drug screen
In addition you will have to abide by certain procedures, including many of the following:
- You will have to return a completed Member Application
- You will have to return a completed Authorization for Release of Information
- You will have to submit a current five year driving abstract (available from the Dept. of Licensing)
- You will have to submit a copy of your unexpired drivers’ license
- You will have to successfully complete a written exam
- You will have to successfully complete a physical ability test
- You will have to successfully complete a New Member Interview
- You will have to successfully complete a medical exam
- You will have to successfully complete a drug screen
It must be noted that these procedures may not automatically hold true in all states and for all organizations and that it is your own personal responsibility to find out what requirements you will need to meet to be a volunteer EMT in your area.
Becoming a volunteer EMT is a very noble calling to pursue, but it is suggested that you think very carefully before committing to this line of work. Being an EMT is intensive and, once you have committed to be a volunteer, you will need to fulfill your duties and complete the number of volunteer hours that you promised you would. One advantage is that it can help you decide whether you want to study to be a full-time paramedic or EMT.