Making your way through EMS career options can be a bit perplexing.
First you take a few steps forward, then a few steps back. Not to mention the merry-go-round of questions that leave your mind swirling as you decide on your personal EMS career path.
Those questions probably include:
- Should you get another degree?
- Should you change jobs?
- Which jobs offer better skills?
- Which certification do I want?
To help you on your career journey, we sought out seasoned professionals to see which paramedic career path each of them chose to advance their careers.
The right credentials help with your EMS careers
A resume is a digital image of work history, education, training and experience. But if you want to stand out from your EMS peers, adding a few credentials on your resume can help you get the job done.
Having more credentials shows prospective employers you are willing to exceed expectations, said David Levesque, RRT-NPS, FP-C, C-NPT, a flight paramedic and registered respiratory therapist based in Boston.
With so many credentials out there, it’s tough to decide which ones are best for you. How do you know which ones to pick?
A good place to start is a list of specialty certifications for critical care professionals by the International Board of Specialty Certification (IBSC) and the Board for Critical Care Transport Paramedic Certification (BCCTPC).
“Take certifications that are of interest to you or where there is a void in your practice, whether it’s in trauma, pediatrics or neonatal,” Levesque said.
Unless it’s already a requirement in your state, Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) helps you stand out when first gaining entry to the EMT field, he added.
The neonatal resuscitation provider certification also helps you stand out from the crowd because it’s not the most common certification. “The NRPC is good for paramedics interested in going into critical care, not necessarily for the 911 city paramedic,” Levesque said, noting that it helps paramedics understand team dynamics.
“There is a flow chart and everyone has a role,” he said. “It’s more focused on the hospital and how you can fit into the idea of this resuscitation of the infant.”
Some organizations to explore along your paramedic career path include:
- National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians (NAEMT) — Nonprofit organization for EMT professionals
- National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) — Nation’s EMS Certification organization
- International Association of Flight and Critical Care Paramedics
Chasing the EMS career dream, one degree at a time
Scott McConnell, RN, BSN, CEN, NRP, senior channel marketing manager and lead instructor with Relias, teaches ALS-NCCP and somehow finds time to work on his master’s degree simultaneously. So, you can imagine, he’s a big fan of using education to elevate your career.
Earlier in his career, McConnell made the decision to go to nursing school shortly after he arrived at a fender bender accident as a first responder.
He forgot rain gear that day, and it’s probably what launched him into his next career. While he stood in the pouring rain, he walked up to a woman in the car accident to assess her injuries.
The woman barely rolled down her window when he approached and continued to talk on her cell phone. She also declined a trip to the ER that day.
Standing in the rain was bad enough. But, between the woman’s callous demeanor and McConnell’s 100-hour work weeks, he realized he had to find a better EMS career path.
Taking the next step
That’s when he started making a plan that would soon light his career on fire. McConnell decided to hit the books. Over the next four years, he juggled his paramedic job, a young family and nursing school.
“When I graduated from nursing school, and passed the NCLEX, I got into a children’s pediatric department,” he said. “But all my experience in EMS did not matter. They hired me because I had the RN credential.”
Juggling all his responsibilities was no easy task. He managed to stay on track with school, work and family by using his planning and communication skills. But he also had to simply accept the tall challenge in front of him.
Having a flexible employer made a big difference. “I would work a 24-hour shift on Monday and then a 16-hour shift on Tuesday,” he said. “I got my 40 hours in in two days.”
But when he eventually changed jobs and started his nursing coursework, it pushed him to his limits at times — and required lots of communication with coworkers, family and professors.
“My coworkers would switch shifts with me,” he said. “Some days I would have to call in sick or talk to my professor and let them know I would miss clinicals and I asked to make them up.”
McConnell said the nursing degree changed everything. It was that one big decision that pushed his career in the direction he wanted it to go and put him in the driver’s seat for career progression.
In search of a new title
Maybe nursing school is out of reach, but perhaps another field in healthcare could push your career forward. Think CAT scan technician, MRI tech or respiratory therapist. Leveque’s career soared once he decided to pursue respiratory therapy.
Levesque started by first obtaining his certified respiratory therapist (CRT) credential. Then pursued his registered respiratory therapist and neonatal pediatric specialist (RRT-NPS).
Levesque always wanted to work in flight EMS and said it was the respiratory therapy certifications that gave him a competitive advantage when he applied for jobs.
“[The certification] gave me the opportunity to work in the hospital (in a critical-care setting) where I learned from other providers, and then worked in a Level I trauma center,” he said. “That experience was helpful to then work in flight EMS.”