The paramedic is an allied health professional whose primary focus is to provide advanced emergency medical care for critical and emergent patients who access the Emergency Medical System (EMS). This individual possesses the complex knowledge and skills necessary to provide patient care and transportation. Paramedics function as part of a comprehensive EMS response, under medical oversight. Paramedics perform interventions with the basic and advanced equipment typically found on an ambulance. The paramedic is a link from the scene into the health care system. Because of the amount of complex decision making, one of the eligibility requirements for licensure requires successful completion of a nationally accredited Paramedic program at the certificate or associates degree level.
The education and skills required of paramedics vary by state. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) designs and specifies a National Standard Curriculum\for EMT training. Most paramedic education and certifying programs require that a student is at a minimum educated and trained to the National Standard Curriculum for a particular skill level. The National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) is a private, central certifying entity whose primary purpose is to maintain a national standard. NREMT also provides certification information for paramedics who relocate to another state.
Paramedic education programs can be as short as 8 months or as long as 4 years. An Associate's degree program is 2 years, often administered through a community college. Degree programs are an option, with two year Associate's degree programs being most common, although four year Bachelor's degree programs exist. The institutions offering such training vary greatly across the country in terms of programs and requirements, and each must be examined by the prospective student in terms of both content and requirements where the prospective paramedic hopes to practice. Regardless of education, all students must meet the same state requirements to take the certification exams, including the National Registry exams. In addition, most locales require that paramedics attend ongoing refresher courses and continuing medical education to maintain their license or certification. In addition to state and national registry certifications, most paramedics are required to be certified in Pediatric Advanced Life Support, Pediatric Prehospital care or Pediatric Emergencies for the Prehospital Provider; Prehospital Trauma Life Support; International Trauma Life Support; and Advanced Cardiac Life Support. These additional requirements have education and certification from organizations such as the American Heart Association.