Paramedic/EMT vs RN?

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    Now I have heard many of you talk on here about having been/are a paramedic/EMT, or your spouse was/is a paramedic/EMT and have one big question (with several smaller ones, too) for you all out there. I am starting nursing school this fall and am so excited about it. I also volunteer in my spare time as a volunteer firefighter and love the adrenaline rush, while helping others. With your experience, is there one career (RN/Paramedic/EMT) that is "better" than the other? I still plan on continuing with nursing school, but I also enjoy the fast-paced, think-on-your-toes environment. Which do you feel is/was more enjoyable?

    Which one is allowed to do more? I know each has its limitations, but...
    I have also heard that Paramedics and RN's make similar amounts of money. Is this true? Whick has more autonomy? Whick is valued more among the medical community? (i.e. Is there one that is looked down on more?)

    Thanks in advance.

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  2. 17 Comments...

  3. 0
    Well, I can't answer a lot of your questions, but just a simple piece of advice. If it is the fast paced adrenaline rush type work environment that you like you can still get that working as an RN working in the ER or trauma unit. One nurse where I work gets all excited when she hears "trauma alert" over the speakers (she used to work in the trauma unit before she started teaching at the hospital). As far as respect...you are always going to have ignorant people no matter where you go but for the most part I think there is equal respect among all healthcare providers (at least where I work). I can't tell you about the salary difference though, hopefully someone else will have that info for you!! Good Luck to you!!
  4. 0
    From what I've seen on local employer websites, rn's make twice as much as emt's.

    Emt's and paramedics are way underpaid in my opinion.

    My dh is a firefighter/paramedic. Most of their calls, about 80%, are medical so he gets that rush you're talking about. He makes about the same amount of money I will as a nurse. It's a cool job, you might consider that option too.
    Last edit by tofutti on Apr 16, '06
  5. 0
    Quote from tofutti
    From what I've seen on local employer websites, rn's make twice as much as emt's.

    Emt's and paramedics are way underpaid in my opinion.

    My dh is a firefighter/paramedic. Most of their calls, about 80%, are medical so he gets that rush you're talking about. He makes about the same amount of money I will as a nurse. It's a cool job, you might consider that option too.
    I agree, EMTs here make min. wage. I have no idea what paramedics make though, I sure hope it is more than the EMTs make!!
  6. 0
    I can certainly say that I have spoken to many firefighters and Paramdedic/EMT's throughout the country and I make, as an RN, almost twice what they do which to me is a travisty!

    Personally, I would rather have the autonomy of the Paramedic to follow protocol but be able to make choices on the route of those protocols vs having to ask a Doc all the time! I also like the shorter time periods with patients in emergency situations and their families like paramedics vs RN. The technical is awesome in both!

    Yep, if I was to do it all over again I would have gone EMT/Paramedic...but that was my nature all along. I tried ED and around here those are the biggest turn over, grapevine, crazy beyond reason, mismanaged departments I have ever witnessed and I chose..after wanting so hard to be in one...to not! (now that is around here BTW...smaller rural hospital...). So there went my dream...now I am in Med surge agency and I rather like it...but that spirit that loves the adreniline and faster pace...well...I still ponder changing and getting my EMT/Paramedic!

    Ask your local paramedic company if you can do a ride along! I did, and they allowed student nurses to go! Best thing I ever did...it was a blast and I learned more in five minutes than I learned in preceptorship ER in a day!
  7. 0
    Well, I've been all three. EMTs don't get paid squat, and paramedics don't get paid what RNs do. They probably get paid as much, if not more in some cases, than LPNs. As an RN you're going to have more job opportunities available to you because there are so many areas of nursing to go into, whereas paramedic doesn't have that vast number of job opportunities available to them. Just look in the catagory part of Allnurses and it show you the number of areas that you can go into as a nurse.

    Now, if you like the adrenaline rush, yeah, paramedics do get that, but depending on where you work, sometimes those "rushes" are few and far between. A lot of the runs that medics deal with people whose complaint a normal person wouldn't go to their family doc for, let alone take an ambulance to the ER for. Staff in the ER deal with the same thing all the time, but they also get time where they get patients that give them that "adrenaline rush."

    There are areas of the country where medics have extensive protocols because they are miles away from anywhere, let alone an ER/ There are areas of the country that medics put their lives in danger everyday because of the people they have to deal with, and places they have to go into to their patients. ER staff have to deal with that too in some areas of the country.

    I would suggest getting your EMT and either volunteering or working part time for one of the EMS services in your area and/or get a job working part time in an ER as a tech. That way you can see what the jobs entail and you can decide from there which looks more appealing. I don't know how old you are, but you can always do EMS first and get you nursing license later. Just a thought.

    Good luck!
    Pam
  8. 2
    Two different worlds, yet in the same universe. As a paramedic, I'm responsible for implementing a treatment regimen based on my assessment. For example, if someone presents with shortness of breath, I have to make some pretty snappy decisions related to the underlying entity based on the history and physical. Is the SOB from asthma, congestive heart failure, pneumonia, serious allergic reaction, partial airway obstruction? Treatment is not only different, but if your assessment is wrong, you could very easily harm or kill your patient. For example, if you give a diuretic to someone you believe to be in CHF and it turns out to be pneumonia, or if you fail to recognize the subtle differences between cardiac asthma and true asthma and treat accordingly, the pt could have some pretty adverse outcomes. As a paramedic, I'm always accountable for the medical treatment regimen based on my assessment.

    In contrast, as a RN, I implement someone else's medical treatment plan (M.D./D.O.) based on their assessment. As an ER nurse, I'm responsible for using the nursing process in delivering care while maintaining an advocacy role for the pt. My scope of practice does not include procedures that I can do as a paramedic (E.T. intubation, External Jugular Venous I.V.s {even though its technically considered a peripheral line}, pleural decompression, trans tracheal jet insufflation, Intra Osseous access, ect)

    As far as pay goes, there is no comparison. Through my own nurse registry, I bill hospitals $55.00 hour for my time ($82.50 for time and one half and $110.00/hr for anything over 12 hours) as an RN/MICN. Even when I worked for someone else's registry I still made $40/hr (about 7 years ago). Incidentally, per other contracted agencies, this is a low-ball rate. Please keep in mind, however, that all nurses do not make the same throughout the country. I've seen pay for RN's reported on this site as little as $15.00 per hour. This of course is by choice, as there are a multitude of business models that you can employ in nursing to maximize your returns on your investment (your time).

    In contrast, as a paramedic with 18 years of exp I make $12.00 per hour. I know I could make more as a paramedic if I went into a public safety agency such as a fire department, but I've never liked the idea of becoming a firefighter first, and a paramedic second. At any rate, working as a nurse through my own registry I was able to pay off my house in less than two years. There's no way I could have done this working as a paramedic.

    As far as the job goes, IMHO there is no vocation better than working as a paramedic. If the financial rewards were the same as nursing where I could provide the same for my family, I would have been perfectly content working the rest of my career as a paramedic. I still enjoy working as a paramedic and now, wouldn't trade my two shifts a month for anything.

    If you really want to have a basic fundamental understanding of the differences in the roles between EMT, Paramedic and RN, I might suggest doing three things:

    1. Schedule a ride along on a basic life support unit for a few shifts.
    2. Schedule a ride along on an advance life support (paramedic) unit for a few shifts.
    3. Schedule some time on a med/surg floor to follow a nurse around for a day or two.
    pre_nurse_mommy and EMS/student like this.
  9. 0
    Very interesting Thread.

    It would be cool if an RN that works for a Starflight [Helicopter Ambulance] service would chime in. Seems this would be another option for the OP.
  10. 0
    We have a flight nurse forum. You will find many threads on this same topic there.
  11. 0
    I couldnt choose between the two so I do both. I have my PHRN and have been on a specialty transport team. I have also worked as a paramedic, precepted medic students and worked in a number of critical care areas as a nurse. I drifted away from the Pre-hospital in the last 5 years but am going to return to that as a volunteer or instructor in the near future. I work in a telemetry unit right now and plan to travel as a nurse again in a few years.


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