What is the Difference Between an EMT and a Paramedic?

All of the Sanford Fire Department’s firefighters are also Emergency Medical Technicians. But some have additional training that qualify them as paramedics. Assistant Fire Chief Bob Arnold explained the difference for us.

“EMT-Basics have a level of education that allow them to perform what we would call Basic Life Support (BLS) functions.  They are able to assess patients conditions and administer a small number of medications (oxygen is considered a medication) to help the patient.  They are able to stabilize & treat immediate dangers that could become more serious.

EMT-Paramedic education level allows them to perform Advanced Life Support (ALS) functions.  They are able to use the full complement of tools and equipment that is available to aid the patients (IV’s, medications, airway management, cardiac management).

We staff each ambulance with at least one paramedic, but they could be paired with a EMT-Basic or another paramedic.  The level of service that is provided is dependent on the needs of the patient.  For example, if we had an ambulance staffed with two paramedics and the patient’s need ends up being BLS, that is the level of service that the paramedics will provide.  They won’t start an IV simply because they can, only when it is appropriate for the conditions of the patient.  Of course, the EMT-B providers will not administer ALS specific functions, but they will aid the paramedic in the process.”

Sanford Firefighter/EMTs provide assistance following a Cottage St. accident on Sunday. Photo by Terry Jellerson.