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What is an Emergency Medical Technician?

In New York State an Emergency Medical Technician or EMT is a person certified by the State Department of Health (DOH) to provide care to Ill or Injured persons outside of a care facility such as a Hospital or Nursing Home. An EMT is divided into five categories or level of training.

First Responder

The First Responder is the first level of EMT and receives the least amount of training. Most First Responders are Police Officers, Fire Fighters, or Members of an Industrial First Aid Squad. They are trained in the management of basic injuries such as broken bones and hemorrhage. First Responders are not regularly found on an ambulance.

Emergency Medical Technician Basic

The Emergency Medical Technician Basic (also known as the Basic EMT) is the level with the least amount of training and still is able to provide care in an ambulance alone. However don't let the least amount of training statement fool you, the Basic EMT skills are the skills that save lives. The Basic EMT receives approximately 120hrs of training. Their skills include immobilization and splinting, bandaging, administering oxygen, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, defibrillation, extrication, and basic airway management. The Basic EMT is considered by most to be the back bone of Emergency Medical Services.

Emergency Medical Technician Intermediate

The Emergency Medical Technician Intermediate (also known as EMT-I) is the first level of provider in what is called advanced life support. Along with the skills of a Basic EMT, the EMT-I receives training in advanced airway management and IV fluid administration. This level of provider is more prevalent in rural areas where volunteers provide ambulance services.

Emergency Medical Technician Critical Care

The Emergency Medical Technician Critical Care (also known as EMT-CC) is an EMT-I that receives advanced training in medication administration and EKG interpretation. The EMT-CC is not a level of care provider found in all 50 states.


The Paramedic is the highest level of Pre-Hospital care provider. While the Basic EMT receives 120 hours of training the Paramedic receives between 1500 to 1800 hours of training and with most programs is awarded a two year college degree. The training received by a Paramedic includes all training with the previous levels of EMT's as well as Advanced Airway maneuvers including Intubation, CPAP, cricothyrotomy, Needle Chest Decompression (used to reduce the pressure in the chest with an collapsed lung), advanced forms of cardiac defibrillation, pacemaker use, and is trained in the use of approximately 30 to 40 different medications, as well as many more treatments based on their regional Medical Advisory Council and Service Medical Director which is where a paramedic receives their authority to provide care. The Paramedic receives intensive instruction and hands on training in patient assessment and treatment modalities. The paramedic is taught to be a free thinker and to make decisions based on their findings, but on the other hand the Paramedic is also trained to know when to contact and consult a physician to obtain guidance in the care of their patient.

While it is appropriate to call a Paramedic an EMT it is not appropriate to call an EMT a Paramedic. Long gone are the days of the "Ambulance Driver" as well as the stigma placed with that name. Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics are highly trained and professional providers of pre-hospital medicine and don't just give the sick and injured a ride to the hospital.