Chemistry used in an EMT’s job

chemistry used in emt job
Photo: Billie Ward via Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Emergency Medical Technicians, or EMTs, are the first medical responders to various crisis situations. These are but a few of the emergency situations that EMTs are called to respond to – wounds and injuries of various causes, poisoning, childbirth, heart attacks, burns, animal bites and attacks, suicides and many more.

An EMT has at least 120 hours of training and a certification. Do EMTs need chemistry to become effective professionals in their field? Of course, they need Chemistry among the many things they need to learn. Hereunder are some of the reasons for emphasizing chemistry in the EMT training course.

Foremost in the job of an EMT is the ability to make quick but judicious assessments in crisis situations. A person could be injured or sick and needs medical attention. Medicines and first-aid procedures may need to be administered in transit to save a life. It is one of the EMT’s responsibilities to stabilize the patient, to assess which patient needs to be prioritized in multiple-injury situations, and to ensure that they are secure while waiting for the medical team or while being transported to medical facilities. Chemistry is a broad-range subject and includes temperature, chemical composition of medicines, components of everyday things (soap, toothpaste, toilet cleaners, plastic household items, burnt plastics, food preservatives and hair color), the air we breathe, and the water we drink. Thus, an EMT interacts with chemicals and chemistry every day, as most people do. Awareness on this becomes important when there is a need to respond to persons who have been exposed or harmed by these substances. Fumes from burnt plastic can be instantly dangerous for some people. Clear liquid for cleaning metals that look like water can be swallowed by small children. EMTs respond to these situations and they must be several steps ahead.

There are situations or accidents where EMTs find people exposed to certain chemicals. Their knowledge on the toxicity of certain chemicals may spell life and death for the affected person. More often than not, they would need to do something immediately to contain or control toxicity. Chemical residues in accident sites can be harmful, and they may need to practice protection and precaution. There are water-reactive chemicals and it would definitely be life-saving for EMTs to know which chemical can be neutralized or flushed with water and which ones are dangerous when wet.

When they are part of the response team for fire-fighting or disposing hazardous materials, knowledge in chemistry is something they must be solid on. Symbols might indicate that a particular chamber has gas that’s flammable, poses a health hazard, can undergo spontaneous combustion at certain temperatures, or may explode in reaction to certain conditions. Many situations expose them to acids and bases, and chemical burns are always possible dangers. EMTs are everywhere during emergency situations, and their knowledge on basic chemistry can save people’s lives, if not their own.

EMTs administer rehydration treatment for hypoglycemic emergencies, oxygen supplementation for stroke patients, and other procedures. Deeper understanding of the chemistry behind these protocols will be both beneficial and ethical to patients, especially with issues that too much oxygen can’t be that good after all.

No doubt, an EMT has a lot to learn, even beyond the minimum 12-hour required for entry-level EMTs, basic chemistry, and other job-ready skills. Emergency-responders are often first on the scene – assessing signs and symptoms, taking blood pressure, using a stethoscope for auscultations, giving medication and first aid, recording medical history and events leading to the emergency, transporting patients, and ensuring that the affected persons get the medical attention they need in the fastest and safest manner possible. These responsibilities and dedication to the job motivate EMTs to advance to the next level in three or four higher levels in the EMT profession. Others, too, are inspired to explore other medical-related fields of profession, such as EMT to RN or EMT to other healthcare careers, to pursue even bigger roles in medical and emergency response care. Since EMTs work closely with nurses in handling patients, the EMT-to-RN route is a usual path followed for career advancement. EMTs rarely stay in their jobs for good because the challenges they encounter on a daily basis stimulate them to grow and be more involved with greater responsibilities.

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