Nurse or Paramedic?

  1. Hi Folks!!

    I know a few of you here have been or are married to or know paramedic(s). I have been thinking a bit about becoming a paramedic lately and think it would be a very cool job. The only reason I dismiss this as a possible job alternative is because of the low pay scale. Am I misinformed or is the payscale really low for paramedics? I'm coming from the Chicago-land area and Salary.com quotes 28-35K a year as the average salary. I make 31K now in a non-medical field and I'm hoping to improve upon that. Also, what in your opinion, are the pro's and con's of being a nurse/paramedic? Any information or advice you have would be great! Thanks!

    Oh...just so you know where this is coming from...I was in my A&P class tonight where all the students are in or entering the medical professions and struck up a conversation with a woman next to me. She was very adament that she would never be a nurse because of all the beauraucratic "crap" you guys all talk about and she claims she gets paid very well to be a Chicago Paramedic (after working for 6 years she says she makes 72K a year working 8 - 24 hour days a month) . This seemed a little too good to be true to me...maybe some of you fine folks can confirm or deny this info...and give me your wonderful input! Thanks again in advance!!

    ~Bean
    Last edit by Hooligan on Jan 14, '03
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  2. 12 Comments

  3. by   SmilingBluEyes
    I dunno, shadow both and decide for yourself. You can do BOTH ya know. I can't speak for paramedicine so I can't help you here.
  4. by   megmermaid
    Have you considered flight nursing? I think in some places you have to be a paramedic also, so you would need both.
    Another thing to consider is that nursing has opportunities to move up (nurse practitioner, CRNA, midwife) and as far as I know a paramedic doesn't have as many of these types of options.

    Obvoiusly I am a nurse and am therefore know more about nursing. Hopefully you'll hear from more paramedics....
  5. by   Gromit
    cant speak for chicago, but I was a paramedic crosstrained as a firefighter (but was the paramedic on my als ambulance) and after 4 yrs of service, sure didn't see that kind of scratch.

    If she is pulling that kind of bread, I'd want to see the paycheck, then I'd want to know what was going on.

    I'd also check with the ems involved and ask them the paramedic payscale (for new-hires and what the cap was). That will give you the truest answer.

    Paramedic work was interesting, but had more than its share of down-sides. I don't regret my paramedic days, but I sincerely look forward to finishing my RN program and working in this field.

    One of the biggest advantages nursing has over ems/medics is the amount of diversity you can have as a nurse. Get tired of one part of the field, aquire some classes and change to another part. Another is the demand for nurses. Paramedics, firefighters, etc, don't have NEAR the demand that nursing does.

    And getting up at 2am after not having slept all day anyway, or any part of the night, for someone who wants a ride to the hospital via ambulance because they (mistakenly) think it will get them seen faster than just waiting in the ER waiting room, well, that just plain got old.
  6. by   annies
    In the near future, paramedics will be required to have an associates degree, just like RNs. So you will spend 2 - 3 years in school, be out the same amount of money for your education expense and probably make less as a paramedic.

    The career ladder is very short. Different areas have different systems. Here we are modeled after fire service. You become a medic, next step up is a lt. ( assistant supervisor ), then a captain. After that you will need the credentials and political backing to enter management and it has nothing to do with patient care, just budgets and billing. No adrenaline rush there.

    Check the pay scales in your area ( call the EMS offices and ask for starting salaries and if they have salary caps). Then check with nurse recruiters and ask the same questions.

    Eight 24hr shifts sounds good until you work one or two without a break. Also you need to do the math - a nurse works 40 hours a week X 4 weeks. That's 160 hours, eight 24s are 192 hours. Remember that in a paramedic's salary there is built in overtime. You take a vacation or sick day you get paid straight time and forfeit the OT.

    Hope this helps,

    Annie ( an ex-paramedic, married to a paramedic )
  7. by   Friesw/that
    I agree with meg
    try to go for flight nursing. it gives the same adrenalin rush as a medics job, with more responsibility, more autonomy, and more money. most of the nurse-medics I know went to medic school first, then nursing, and work as medics on the side.
    also, you might want to consider emt basic certification. it requires less time to obtain, and some flight nurse programs require the nurses have emt certification. nurses are more in demand and overall do make more money, although i have recently seen sign on bonuses for basics and medics in the local paper. i also agree that it's a good idea to call your local hospital and ambulance service, let them know your interest and mabye they'll let you shadow them for a while. Lastly, there is such an entity as a "Transport Nurse"--they work on the ambulance, instead of the helicopter---still have autonomy, more responsibility and see the "rush". Something else to think about....the best to you.
  8. by   howie122832
    Married to a paramedic/firefighter. He loves his job, and especially the hours.. he works 24hrs on and 48hrs off. He also works in the ED on his days off from the fire dept. He makes a good living (enough to support 2 daughters and put me through school!) He works an average of 12 days a month. Here in FL. paramedics can do some things that RN's can't and visa-versa so he plans to go on and get his RN (one year of school left) and that way he can work at both....and we can move to some place that the tourists arent', and spend our days off swinging in hammocks under a coconut palm...
  9. by   Hooligan
    Thank you all so much for your input! You have confirmed my suspicions! I have thought about flight nursing...but i'm a little sqirrely when it comes to flying. My fear was further validated when I visited the flight nursing web page and read the memorial they posted for a med flight that went down last August, I think. I'm going to stick with nursing...I just liked the autonomy that being a paramedic provides. I can definately see all the perks to nursing you guys mentioned. Thanks again!

    ~Bean
  10. by   JohnnyGage
    Let's not forget that there are other areas of transport nursing that don't involve flight. I fly quite a bit, but I also work on ambulances occasionally. The hospital I work for has its own transportation service and utilizes critical care RNs to do mobile ICU transports -- when they're not doing that, the critical care rigs work 911 service in rotation with the ALS trucks. Not only do the RNs get the excitement of the street, but they get RN pay with RN benefits. Something to think about.
  11. by   zudy
    I was an EMT before I went to LPN school,(then went to RN school) and I was also torn. I went to LPN school because I figured if I hated being a nurse, I could still get my paramedic licenxe and had only lost a year. Ended up loving nursing, but that's another story. Anyway, went to ER for years, so I still had the rush. I would love to still be in EMS, but the work is physically more demanding. There are times in EMS when you are lifting a 350 lb pt down 3 flights of stairs, and it's just you and your partner. Most of the EMS I know wear bullet proof vests, they walk into all kinds of dangerous situations. I, too would recommend shadowing both. I got the oppurtunity to do both, and love it!
  12. by   howie122832
    [quote]originally posted by zudy
    [b] most of the ems i know wear bullet proof vests, they walk into all kinds of dangerous situations.


    where do you live??????????????/
  13. by   zudy
    Howie, I have pm'ed you.
  14. by   deedee05
    Howie must be in Miami! That is one of the only places in FL that I know of that require their medics to wear vests!! I was an EMT in FL before I moved to AL. Last fall, I entered the nursing program. I loved being an EMT and really wanted to become a Paramedic, then a flight medic. I now have a 2 1/2 yr old son and decided against it because of the kinds of places you walk into as an EMT or medic. I will tell you that one of my preceptors while in the EMT program had been a FF/Paramedic for 11 years and was making only $7.49/hr!!! That pay really stinks!!! He had to work in another dept. as well as the one I did my ride time at. Of course that was Hardee County (Wauchula) FL and the pay doing anything in that county really stinks!! My brother-in-law works for Haines City, FL (Polk County) as a FF, making around $22,000/yr and will make more when he is EMT certified. I guess the pay really depends on the area in which you live!! Also, as a flight nurse, you will work with a flight medic, but you don't have to be a medic as well as a nurse, (not in AL, TN, GA, or FL, unless it has changed!) you do however, have to meet weight requirements!! Good luck with your decision.
    Last edit by deedee05 on Jan 15, '03

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