If you are serious about going to medical school, chances are that you have at least considered becoming an EMT. And who can blame you? It is a great way to build up your medical school resume; there is probably no other job you can get as an undergraduate that will give you greater interaction with patients than as an EMT. It also doesn’t hurt that you will be more popular on campus than your pre-med peers who are stuck volunteering at a clinic or something.
But with all things in life, you have to consider whether the experience is worth it. If you are a pre-med student, you already know that time is limited. You have about four years to make your medical school resume look as stunning as it can possibly be because medical schools are extremely competitive. Is the time and effort invested into becoming an EMT a good investment? In this article we will attempt to answer that very question.
First off, I will say that experience as an EMT looks great on paper. It conveys to medical schools that you not only have patient experience and medical exposure, but that you have leadership potential. Most pre-meds are not EMTs; instead they are volunteers at clinics or research assistants for a doctor. They therefore have limited experience in the “real world” which makes EMTs stand out in a positive way.
In addition, experience as an EMT will undoubtedly prepare you for clinical rotations in medical schools. One of the challenges medical students have is that they do not know how to deal with and talk to patients. Their nervous systems alway seem to shut down. It takes time and practice for these students to get comfortable in a healthcare setting. This is not true for EMTs because they already have an immense amount of experience interacting with patients. Why would you be nervous helping a patient when you have already been an EMT who has been involved in life-and-death situations?
But this familiarity does come with its cons. One of the biggest negatives about being an EMT as a pre-med is definitely the time commitment. To become an EMT, there are many hurdles that one has to deal with. First, you have to take an EMT class with an accredited school. The law makes it so that a prospective EMT has well over a hundred hours of classroom lecture. This does not account for homework and individual studies. In my experience, I had to study two hours for every hour of lecture. All in all, you should expect to spend about 350-400 hours completing an EMT class. By the way, EMT class is not cheap.
After you have passed an EMT class, you must now pass the national licensing exam and fulfill state and county requirements. This part is usually not as difficult, especially if your EMT class has adequately prepared you.
When you have finished all licensing requirements, you have to start the phase of actually looking for a job as an EMT. Just because you put in a lot of hours and just because you have a license does not mean you have a job. Welcome to the real world. Depending on where you want to get a job, finding a job can be anywhere from easy to extremely difficult. Furthermore, many companies do not allow new EMTs to be part-time workers. Just so you know, the fact you have a final the next day is NOT a good excuse to skip work.
In my experience as an EMT, there was one company that was hiring in my area that did emergency calls. (Not all EMT companies do emergency calls. There are a lot of EMT companies but only a few do emergency calls. The rest do nonemergency calls, or IFTs, which means all you will be doing is transporting patients from clinic to clinic. As a pre-med, you really want to try to get a job with a company that is contracted to do emergency calls.) However, they only hired full-time workers so I had to do that. This was my schedule:
Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday: Work from 7pm to 7am
Monday-Friday: School from 8am-2pm.
As you can probably tell, my life was busy, but I knew this is what I signed up for.
If you are a prospective EMT, I can’t tell you whether you are making the right or wrong decision. However, I can try to give you the facts so that you can decide for yourself whether you think it is worth it. EMT was a great job and something I will not forget, but it definitely was hard juggling being a full time EMT and a full time pre-med.
For all you ambitious students, this is the advice I would give to you:
1. If you want to be an EMT, I would be an EMT early on.
It is too hard to juggle EMT with school if you are in your latter stage of college. When you’re freshmen, life is simpler and less busy. When you are a junior, you have to worry about harder classes, applications, MCATs, etc.
2.Research EMT companies before you commit to a class to see if it is feasible.
I worked full-time, but my grades did suffer. I would have been better off if there was a company that let you work part-time. If you know you can’t do full-time, and you find out no companies near your area hire part-time, that is a sign you should not become an EMT.
3.Try to take your EMT class when you do not have school.
Try taking it between your breaks. I know there are some programs that let you take the class during Christmas.