Female EMT in Seattle?
August 13, 2011 4:32 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for information about becoming an EMT and eventually a paramedic in the greater Seattle area. I'm a female and do not want to (or think I could) become a fire fighter.

I'm currently employed in a hospital in a non-patient care position, and am waiting to hear back about an ER job I applied for, so I may be getting to learn more about EMS in my area in the near future. I have reason to believe I might excel in the types of high pressure situations an EMT or paramedic would be confronted with. I'm 22 and have a BA in Political Science. I did really well in school, so I think I could handle the coursework required, although I have not taken any medical courses of any type, so I would be starting from the very beginning in this respect. My hospital has a "career advancement center" which I will be contacting to see if they can offer me more specific information on training and career paths. Tuition and other education expenses will likely not be an issue, because my hospital has a generous tuition reimbursement program for those studying to go into medical fields.

I am looking for information about how to become an EMT without becoming a fire fighter in my area, since relocation is not an option right now. I'm also looking for information more generally about career options, especially in regards to women working as EMTs or paramedics. I'm about 5'5" and 130 pounds and in decent shape but not all that strong (which of course I can change some, but I don't think I will ever develop the physical abilities required to be a fire fighter); is this likely to be a problem on the job?

Thanks for your help and input on this!
posted by wansac to Work & Money (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
As I understand it in Seattle one must become an EMT in order to become a firefighter, not the other way around. So that might not be a problem.

I have a friend who was on the EMT-to-firefighter track in Seattle for a while; he's male and strong but may be able to tell you how essential that is. Email me and I'll try to put you in touch.
posted by hattifattener at 5:35 PM on August 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

I can't speak to the specifics of being an EMT in Seattle but: You can definitely handle the EMT course work. Its a lot, but manageable. I'm the least science oriented person I know and I did just fine. Second - definitely consider that a big part of being an EMT involves lifting. You may not need to be at a firefighter level of fitness but you'll likely spend plenty of time carrying people down stairs in stretchers and stairchairs.
posted by blaneyphoto at 5:46 PM on August 13, 2011

I too cannot speak to Seattle, as I was an EMT in Southern California. I think that anyone who truly applies herself can easily conquer the EMT coursework. I second blaneyphoto on the issue of lifting. In the state where I now reside, there is a minimum requirement that an EMT must be able to lift 120 pounds. Frankly, that's not a lot, but you may want to do some upper body training to work up to it.

As a non-firefighter EMT you will probably not start out on emergency calls. You will most likely be doing inter-facility transfers such as taking people from the nursing home to the hospital or taking someone home from the hospital. This may or may not fit into your ideas of what EMTs do.

Again, I cannot speak to Seattle, but most places I am familiar with have beginning pay scales at or near minimum wage. While EMT is an important and skilled position, it is lousy pay.
posted by Old Geezer at 8:16 PM on August 13, 2011

This forum post (found with a Google search for [seattle hiring emt]) lists several ambulance companies in the area that hire EMTs. Although it looks like the jobs are pretty hard to come by.

You might want to consider a career as a trauma nurse. Much more training required, but the pay, job prospects, and career options are much better. If you can get your employer to pay for the tuition, so much the better.
posted by grouse at 8:18 PM on August 13, 2011

Best answer: Female, 5'3"/140 firefighter/paramedic here. I started as an EMT at 16 and I've been in EMS for 6 years now.

As far as coursework goes, you will be completely fine. Your college classes were considerably, considerably harder than EMT school will ever be. There isn't a lot of hard science involved except for anatomy. It's mostly memorization and practice of protocols.

Physically, you will need to get a lot stronger. You need to be able to pull your weight lifting. In PA, you have to be able to lift 125 pounds on your own to get your cert: half of a stretcher with a 200-lb patient on it. You may end up with patients larger than that, but usually there's some sort of lifting assistance available to you, either from firefighters or from next due. I can squat 2.5 times my body weight and I still struggle occasionally because ambulances are designed for someone about 5'8".

EMT-B jobs are somewhat saturated in Pennsylvania, where I live and work. However, with a decent amount of experience (volunteer or paid), you can get a decent job in an ER or in a suburban 911 system. You'll likely have to pay your dues in a non-emergent setting, like a taxi for dialysis patients. There's no adrenaline rush, but your skills in talking with a wide variety of people as well as taking vital signs will increase pretty dramatically if you can handle the low pay grade.

Grouse totally has a point about trauma nursing or any other career. See if you can shadow related careers--an ER doc, a fire service paramedic, an interfacility transport EMT, a trauma nurse, a 911 EMT. Make sure you like what you're getting yourself into.

I think that most BLS 911 response in Seattle and surrounding areas is transported by non-fire companies (AMR if I remember correctly?) so you may have decent luck getting a 911 job reasonably quickly. Find out who does 911 response and transport to your area and anywhere you feel comfortable commuting to, bearing in mind you may have 12 or even 24 hour shifts which justify a long commute. See what their hiring requirements are.

Lastly, I'm sure there are a few Seattle EMS types at EMTLife, the most reputable EMS forum I've found.

MeMail me if you have any questions. And make sure you talk to the EMTs and medics once you get your ER job!
posted by skyl1n3 at 9:55 PM on August 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

« Older A census giving consensus for consent?   |   Where to dash off to in early September? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.