10-01-2011, 12:04 AM #1
- Join Date
- Jul 2011
Paramedic School How is it?
Can anyone give some details on there experience going through paramedic school? How hard was it? What gave you the most trouble? Just trying to get some insight before I get into it.
10-06-2011, 11:06 PM #2
- Join Date
- Nov 2008
dedicated yourself 100 %
Just finished Medic school in April. Advice, go into it 100% and become the best medic you can. I was in a class of 22 and finished ranked #3. I studied probably 30-40 hours a week outside of class. Many people skated through the program but I would not want them working on my family members!! Many depts will see your medic skills early on, they will be able to tell if you put your all into it or if you skated by! If your a so so medic your probation will be very tough. I feel very lucky to have received a good medic school education, this job is 85% medical so I think it would be wise to have that part of your job dialed in. It is SO worth it. Go for it and become a great EMS provider! Good Luck
10-06-2011, 11:11 PM #3
- Join Date
- Sep 2011
Take full advantage of your clinical time. Ask the attendings of the ER if you can follow them around, it's a great way to see every patient, and to hear the thought process that leads the decision-making.
Actually learn the why of as much as you can possibly cram into your head. This will mean digging deep into the physiology and chemistry, but do it anyway.
Don't entertain the thought that you are going to medic school just to get a job with a fire department. If you're not going to medic school just to be a medic, don't bother. Nobody wants a list-following protocol drone taking care of their family member.
Watch closely and see a few medics that stand out to you as being really good, and then figure out what they have going that makes them stand out. Figure out how you can copy that.
10-16-2011, 02:19 PM #4
- Join Date
- Jul 2011
Thanks everyone for the tips.. Is it possible to hold a job to pay the bills while in paramedic school? I know working 40 hours would not be possible just wondering if a part time job would be possible?
10-16-2011, 11:39 PM #5
- Join Date
- Jun 2011
Plan on not having a life for atleast a year, and no, im not joking. Overall though, if you study hard and pay attention, you will do fine. I held a job all throughout medic school, it was hard, and i very rarely got 40 hours a week in, but i did it.
10-18-2011, 12:06 PM #6
- Join Date
- Jan 2009
You have to put a lot of time and effort into it. I went two days a week for about 7 or 8 hours a day, and studied at least 4 to 10 hours every week. It is a very hard challenge, and I held a job through mine as well. All and all in the end it is very worth it. As of last month I got my license, and I fee great!
10-19-2011, 07:39 PM #7
- Join Date
- Dec 2010
Worth it, 100%. With the vast majority of departments using fire based EMS, the knowledge alone, helps you provide a better service to your community, even if you operate at the BLS level.
Go in it with the mindset that it's a year of suck. 40+ hours of your normal job, 8+ hours of night classes, 4-6 hours of study every week, and expect at least 12 hours of clinical/ride along hours per week to stay ahead. Your life is medic school.
You will graduate proud, but also humbled by the responsibility the title paramedic carries, more so on day one riding the box with just you and an EMT, and no one else to hold your hand.
Obviously, the career opportunity is excellent with the P number and you'll find yourself with preference over other non-medic applicants when it comes to testing based upon the business need of a department to more effectively serve the community.
01-05-2012, 02:04 PM #8
I think what is going to make Medic school so hard for me, Is I thought EMT-B school was tough! I hate the medical side of this world, and I'd rather just be a firefighter, but sadly thats not how this whole system works, and I have to put myself through it, and force myself into liking it, it seems.Firefighter 1/ PA EMT-B
01-07-2012, 09:04 AM #9
- Join Date
- Nov 2005
Published in The Aspiring Firefighter’s Two Year Plan
Tom Rollins, a graduate of the Daniel Freeman UCLA Paramedic program,
wrote the following article. Rollins has agreed to share his experiences with
future firefighters, so that they may make an informed decision when deciding
to go to paramedic school.
The decision to go to Paramedic School is one that should not be taken
lightly. It will be one of the most challenging periods of your life, and to jump
into it without serious thought, preparation and planning could spell disaster
to your goal of becoming a firefighter. With that said, it can also be one of the
most rewarding periods of your career in the fire service.
I thought I was ready for paramedic school when I applied a few years
back. I was working as a reserve firefighter in a very busy part of Los Angeles
County and ran multiple 911 calls every shift. I had already attained an A.S.
degree in Fire Science at a local college, put myself through a fire academy
and was working one 24-hour shift a week as the fourth person on a very
busy engine company.
The final straw was when I spent two nights in line to get a job application
for a local fire department. The first night of the line-up, a battalion chief walked
the entire line with a handful of applications, handing them out to anyone who
could show him a paramedic card. The rest of us stood in line another 30
hours. By the time I got to the front of the line, they had run out of applications.
Instead of taking tests with 2000 of my closest friends, I told myself that this
was going to be the last time I slept on a sidewalk just to see the job go to a
paramedic. I was convinced that the next natural progression to becoming a
firefighter was attending paramedic school.
I was overly confident in my abilities as a student because I had sailed
through the courses toward my college degree with very little effort. In addition,
EMT classes were a breeze for me. I had completed some upper division
college classes at the state university level in Biology and Pre-Dentistry (I
had aspirations of becoming a dentist before I realized my true calling was in
the fire service). I was actively instructing first aid and CPR classes for about
eight years prior to applying. Little did I know what lay in store for me. I came
to find out that my story was quite typical of my future classmates as well.
This brings up a good point. Are you going to paramedic school just to be
able to check a box on your job application? Or are you going because you
have a real desire to learn more about pre-hospital care? I saw many “box
checkers” fail out of the program because the effort it took far exceeded the
desire to have a “P” nailed onto the end of their EMT card. If you are hired
as a firefighter/paramedic, you will be expected to work as a medic probably
for quite some time. If you don’t like being a medic to begin with, it’s bound
to show. You are going to be a very unhappy person who is being scrutinized
on every call. It’s hard enough to be a rookie firefighter without the pressure
of being a paramedic at the same time. So give some serious thought about
jumping into paramedic school if you’re not ready or not really willing.
To get into a paramedic school you have to meet some basic requirements.
Since they vary greatly from school to school and state to state, I won’t go into
them here. After these requirements are met, a typical program will require
you to take a basic EMT-1 level test. This is the first weeding out process you
will encounter. My school had a minimum acceptance level of 85% to go on
in the process. After that you are invited to take basic math, reading, writing
and comprehension tests. The third step is an oral interview similar to a fire
department oral board, where they ask you a few situational questions and
your reasons for wanting to become a paramedic.
If you are accepted, you go in for an orientation and receive your books.
I suggest bringing a large backpack and parking as close to the front door
as possible. You will most likely be assigned some study material before the
first day of class. The first morning you walk in, expect a quiz. The instructors
are testing your ability to follow directions. If you don’t score well on your first
quiz after having weeks to prepare, the instructors will have a nice one-sided
conversation with you in which you do most of the listening. “How are you going
to keep up throughout the program with only hours of study time instead of
weeks and score above 80% on every quiz?”
On the first day of instruction a doctor spoke to our class and told us that
he demanded excellence in us. We were going to learn at a pace that was
similar to a first year medical student and would be expected to perform at
that level as well. If anyone didn’t think that they could hack it, he invited them
to quietly leave at the end of his address, no questions asked and receive a
full refund of their tuition. He said that for the rest of our lives (yes that’s right,
the rest of our lives) we would remember paramedic school and what we had
to endure to graduate. And I can assure you, truer words were never spoken.
You will always remember your time spent in medic school.
It’s not that the subject matter is all that hard; if given two years to prepare
and study, I’m sure that most people could graduate. The problem is that
many programs teach the course in six months. Talk about putting a ten-pound
chicken in a five-pound bag! So as you can probably see, medic school is all
about mastering a vast amount of information in a short amount of time.
A paramedic program is typically broken up into three phases: didactic
(classroom), clinical and field internship phase. I was tested every day with
written quizzes or skill stations. The minimum passing level in my program
was 80%. No grading curves, no excuses, no missing classes and no sleep.
OK, I’m joking. I was able to sleep one to three hours on most nights during
the classroom phase.
The following suggestions will help you prepare for and get the most out
of each phase of school. Through planning and preparation you can increase
your chances of graduating and getting your paramedic license.
Before even applying to paramedic school, I suggest you take a semester
course of Anatomy & Physiology (lecture and lab) at a local community college.
In fact, many programs are starting to include this as a prerequisite. This is a
good foundation class and you should work hard in it. Keep in mind that most
paramedic schools demand at least 80% to pass; you should be in the upper
90% in every pre-paramedic course you take.
Next is a basic EKG (Electrocardiogram) course. You don’t need to master
12 lead EKG’s yet, but it wouldn’t hurt. Basic EKG courses are taught in three
days or less. Know every cardiac rhythm taught to you and know it well. Be able
to read a rhythm strip at a glance, not with five minutes of debate with calipers
in one hand and flash cards in the other. Your field internship instructors will
expect you to know this cold.
A course in medical terminology, ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support),
PALS (Pediatric Advanced Life Support) and any other course that you can
think of that will expose you to pre-hospital medical training are all feathers
in your cap to help you get into paramedic school and succeed. If your basic
math skills aren’t what they should be, make sure you do whatever you must to
get them there. Pharmacology is all about fractions, decimals and conversions
factors. Study up on your metric system, paying particular attention to volume
and mass measurements like milligrams and cubic centimeters.
Many programs are now offering a paramedic prep course to help students
be successful. All these courses count when it comes to admission time. Many
people apply to paramedic school and the competition to get in is growing
every day. If you can show that you are better prepared than the next person,
chances are you will get the slot and not end up on the ever-growing waiting
list. The school wants you to succeed.
Another good way to prepare for a paramedic program that is often
overlooked is to become the best EMT-1 you can be. Let the paramedics
that you work with know you want to prepare yourself for paramedic school.
I bet they will let you do some patient assessments and run through some
patient simulations. I spoke to a paramedic program instructor who said
patient assessment skills are severely lacking in his new students. Your field
internship will go much more smoothly if you have actually done a few patient
assessments and not merely acted like an IV pole on all of your 911 calls. The
key is to get in there and get the experience.
Some fire departments insist that their rookies do ALL the primary
assessments prior to the paramedics taking over with the advanced stuff, so you
might as well get your hands dirty. When the medics are doing something you
don’t understand, ask them after the call why they chose that certain treatment.
Get to such a level of competence that you can predict what medication is
going to be administered and why. You will be doing the same thing in the near
future, so pay attention.
A huge leg up in preparing for paramedic school is knowing your drugs.
There can be over 100 pre-hospital drugs to learn and most of it is just rote
memorization. You don’t have to know what the drug does to memorize its
dosage, indications and contraindications. By knowing this prior to the first day
of class, you will buy yourself some much needed time to study other subjects
(or sleep) while everyone else is struggling with pharmacology. Visit any
paramedic school and they will gladly sell you the most current pharmacology
You can also use this visit as important face time. Speak with an instructor
or sit in on a lecture if you can. Talk with some of the zombie-like students and
ask them how you could be better prepared for your class. When it comes time
to take the oral interview, you may see a familiar face on the other side of the
Another way to get experience is to volunteer for some of the simulation
stations at the school to which you are applying. Often the school is looking for
mock patients for the current class. This will give you an opportunity to see how
the students are tested and what constitutes a pass or fail in a skills station.
You would be surprised how often the program needs volunteers. And again,
this is more face time for you to talk with the instructors and get information
that other applicants will not have. The competition for that spot in the next
class is high; all the above things will hopefully tilt the odds in your favor.
When you do get that acceptance letter you need to prepare both mentally
and financially. In my paramedic class we lost right around 40% of the students
by graduation. A lot of these students were trying to work a job while in the
program. If at all possible, do not try to work while in paramedic school if you
are in a full-time, six to eight month program.
The didactic period will last from 9 to 16 weeks depending on the school
you attend. This is usually a Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule.
But that is just class time. Next you have to drive home and eat and then
study. You must explain to your family and friends that you are unavailable to
do anything for the next 9 to 16 weeks. No nights or weekends off; these will
be spent studying. All free time will be spent studying material, working on
your assigned project, or preparing for the next test. All of your loved ones will
have to excuse you from any other responsibilities during this time. If you fill
your plate with anything other than paramedic school, you will most likely fail.
Class failure rates in the 30% to 40% range are not uncommon.
The next step in the program is called the clinical phase, during which you
will spend about 180 hours in a busy hospital emergency room. A lot of this time
will be spent starting IV’s and generally angering your patients in the process.
You will also get the chance to practice your patient assessment skills. Do as
many assessments as you can. If you don’t show any aptitude, the nurses
will be more than happy to forget about you and move on to someone who is
more interested in becoming a better paramedic intern.
Some people use the clinical phase to coast and relax before going out
to the field internship. Don’t become one of these people. When a paramedic
comes in with a patient, listen to how he or she gives report. Ask the medics
what drugs were administered in the field and why they gave them. Listen to
incoming 911 calls if you are in a base station hospital and ask the nurses for
pointers on how to talk on the radio. When a patient needs to be intubated,
make sure you volunteer for it. Sometimes the doctors forget that this is in your
scope of practice and will do it themselves, but they might let you do it if you
speak up. I got to do a number of intubations this way. When a trauma or full
arrest patient comes in, make sure you’re not off doing something else less
important. Get in there and practice your mega code skills and listen to how
others run the code. Take notes as soon as possible after the code and write
down everything you didn’t understand or were confused about. Go over the
code with the nurse and ask questions.
The field internship is the 3rd and probably most challenging portion of
your schooling. You will be riding out with a busy paramedic unit for at least
20-25 shifts of 24 hours in length. Many paramedic programs have a difficult
time placing students because the paramedic preceptors are taking you on
as a favor to the school and/or program in general. Keep in mind that your
preceptors get no extra pay for accepting you into their lives and they are doing
you a favor! All they get out of the deal is more paperwork, more hassle and
more headaches. In return they get to mentor new paramedics and this is why
they really do it. If you are lucky enough to be able to do your internship at a
municipal fire department where you will be working with highly experienced
and knowledgeable paramedics, the whole crew is taking you under their
collective wing. Treat this opportunity as you would a rookie firefighter position,
because you may be one at this department if everything goes well.
I highly advise trying to find your own internship before you start paramedic
school. This way you can get a good internship in a busy fire station and get
the most out of your time. It’s better to be graded on ten calls per shift than
two. Imagine the upper hand you would have on an oral board if you were a
paramedic intern at that department. Need I say more?
No paramedic internship goes perfectly. Your preceptors don’t expect
perfection on your first shift except in one area – pharmacology. You may have
remembered that I mentioned this at the beginning of the chapter. In your
first shift it is common for the preceptors to question you on drug dosages,
indications and contraindications to get a feel for how much you have prepared
yourself for the field internship. If you can’t rattle off all your dosages like a
4th grader recites the alphabet, a whole new can of worms may be opened
up and they will start questioning everything you learned. Not a good way to
make that first impression. Know your drugs, know your drugs, know your
drugs…there, I said it three times.
Keep a positive attitude at all times when you are in your field internship.
When you mess up a call, and you will, learn from your mistakes and move
on. Visualize your next call going perfectly. When your preceptors tell you to
change or add something to your patient assessments, do so immediately.
Never argue with your preceptors or disagree with them in the middle of a call.
There will be plenty of time to discuss the run on the way back to the station.
During your internship you should never tell your preceptors how you will deal
with patients in the future; just keep your comments to yourself and try to learn
as much as possible in your 20 shifts.
The assessment form that your preceptors fill out every shift has a section
in it that grades your ability to take instruction and criticism. You will be amazed
that what seems like a stupid idea on shift number five makes perfect sense
on shift 18. A sure way to fail is to argue, disagree, or not follow instructions.
The valedictorian of my class failed his field internship because of his inability
to take instruction.
Make sure the rig you ride on is the cleanest, most well-stocked rig in the
city. When the next shift comes in and checks out the rig, everything should be
fully stocked and in its place. The scope is clean and shining with a new roll
of printer paper. The EKG patches are overflowing out of the pocket and the
leads are wiped clean. The drug cabinet has no expired drugs lying around
in the dark hidden corners. (A nasty little trick preceptors like to do is hide an
expired drug in the bottom of the meds box.) The drug box is scrubbed to a
shine and all the brass on the clasps is polished.
When you come back from a call, restock any item that was used on the
patient. Never let the scope batteries run low, or an audible alarm will sound off
telling everyone on the next call that you are slacking. Empty out a compartment
and wipe it clean, throw out any trash and put everything back in its proper
place. Make sure you don’t leave any oxygen bottles empty. If you find any
medical equipment that you don’t understand and can’t give a drill on with ten
minutes notice, ask your preceptors.
When you have nothing to do, your nose is in the books. Every firefighter
who sees that rig will know a paramedic trainee is on it because it will be
shining when it comes down the street and every paramedic who works on
the rig will not have to lift a finger when it comes to restocking it. If you work
hard at everything you do in your 20 or so shifts, you are showing everyone
how much you want to be there and do well. A good trainee acts a lot like a
good firefighter rookie.
01-10-2012, 12:38 AM #10
Well now, isn't this going to be a problem...Firefighter 1/ PA EMT-B
01-10-2012, 07:39 PM #11
- Join Date
- Jul 2011
Thanks for the continuous replies I am about to start EMT-B in a week and am really excited.. the medical aspect is part of the job and I am really excited to start to learn. It's going to be tough while working full time so we will see.
01-10-2012, 11:08 PM #12
blachatch, I do believe you will be fine with EMT-B while working full time, as honestly, not much studying is needed. Mostly Vocabulary for myself. Now Medic school I've been told is nearly impossible to work through.Firefighter 1/ PA EMT-B
01-11-2012, 10:36 PM #13
- Join Date
- Jul 2011
^^ yeah I hope working isn't a problem.. I've heard mixed opinions on working through medic school some say they worked through it some say to just work part time.
04-11-2012, 10:28 PM #14
- Join Date
- Feb 2011
I'm currently in Paramedic school and working. It is possible, but don't expect to have a life outside of school and work. I haven't had a (full) day off since I started school back in august 2011. It's tough but worth it. A&P was the most difficult part for me, but I got through it and you definitely need it as a foundation for the rest of your school. If you don't know how the body should be working you won't be able to fix it (unless you're completely protocol driven). Despite how busy and stressful as it has been I have enjoyed it tremendously. Like others have said, pick the brains of your clinical rotation preceptors, they have taught me as much as our instructors at school. Good luck!
08-31-2012, 03:52 AM #15
I really wish I did not miss the registration for medic school this fall, and now that I have, I'm at a stand still. I have no idea what to do with my time other then keep taking fire classes. I've actually grown to like the medical side of all this; and am really excited to start learning much more technicle stuff. I have to find a local spring course...Firefighter 1/ PA EMT-B
08-31-2012, 04:15 AM #16
My EMT classes just started last week. It will be difficult but not impossible.Normal is an illusion. What is normal for the spider is chaos for the fly.
08-31-2012, 09:08 AM #17Firefighter 1/ PA EMT-B
08-31-2012, 12:24 PM #18
- Join Date
- Nov 2009
09-04-2012, 07:07 PM #19
- Join Date
- Jul 2011
Well to update my thread I flew through Basic class with a 90%, and just started medic school have one week under my belt and I can tell it is going to be alot different. I dont like my class book which is Mosby's paramedic book and its giving me a hard time understanding the material.
I hope I can make it through this!!!
09-12-2012, 12:33 AM #20
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