EMS personnel, law enforcement officers, and firefighters share a long-standing tradition of trading quips and witticisms on shared scenes. Referring to firefighters as “hose draggers,” a police officer as a “flatfoot,” or EMS personnel as “taxi drivers” is usually done in jest. However, a small percentage of the population actually view EMTs and paramedics as little more than “ambulance drivers.”

In order to show our appreciation for the dedicated individuals that provide emergency medical care to millions of people every year, we wanted to discuss why EMS staff are much more than just drivers. Our hope is that this article sheds some light on the emergency medical services profession and the talented people behind the wheel of those “hospital taxis.”

Becoming an Emergency Medical Technician Requires Dedication

Those who are not familiar with emergency medical services may not realize that there are various classes of service providers aboard an ambulance. Of those, EMTs or emergency medical technicians are considered to be entry-level providers. Despite this designation, becoming an EMT requires a significant amount of training.

While the exact number of hours needed to become an EMT vary from state to state, these courses may take as long as 16 weeks to complete. After completing an approved course, attendees must pass the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians computer exam. They must also pass the NREMT practical skills exam.

EMTs are invaluable to the EMS profession and the communities that they serve. According to data collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Office of EMS, EMTs care for roughly 25 to 30 million U.S. residents every year.

EMS Medics Are Highly Trained

In addition to EMTs, ambulance crews often include individuals who have become certified as paramedics, often known as “medics” for short.

Paramedics have to complete hundreds of hours of clinical and academic training. These training courses are extremely rigorous and designed to equip paramedics with the skills necessary to perform advanced lifesaving measures, such as intubating patients and administering IV medications.

Paramedics are capable of providing a higher level of care than EMTs, due to their advanced medical training. While EMTs, engineers, or other individuals typically drive ambulances, paramedics may also be required to operate emergency medical vehicles. This is particularly likely when discussing ALS or advanced life support ambulance crews, as each member of the team can be certified as a paramedic.

Together, paramedics and EMTs provide essential front-line care to individuals who are suffering from acute injuries, life-threatening illnesses, and other adverse health events.

Operating an ambulance and shuttling patients to the hospital is a very small component of an EMS professional’s responsibilities!

EMS Staff Are Poised Under Pressure

On every call, EMS staff are placed under extreme amounts of pressure. They must address the needs of the patient while simultaneously contending with environmental hazards, psychological stress, and concerned family members. Successfully doing this requires EMTs and paramedics to exhibit significant poise and composure in the midst of utter chaos.

Oftentimes, EMS personnel must drop off a patient, clean their rig, and proceed to the next call before they have a moment to process what they just observed at the scene of the past incident. An EMS crew may have to resuscitate a small child, respond to a severe traffic crash, and treat a gunshot victim all in a single night. These selfless professionals are expected to handle all of this stress while continuing to provide exceptional care to every patient they encounter.

Medics and EMTs Provide Essential Community Services

If medics and EMTs were simply tasked with shuttling patients to the hospital, millions of lives would be lost every single year. Fortunately for all of us and the community at large, these individuals do much more than simply drive ambulances — they also make split-second decisions in order to improve patient outcomes and provide life-saving care.

Medics and EMTs lay the foundation for more advanced care at dedicated treatment facilities, such as hospitals and freestanding emergency rooms. These professionals assess patients while on scene and continue to monitor them in transit.

Upon arrival at a care facility, they provide receiving staff members with detailed information about the patient’s condition so that physicians can determine the next appropriate action.

Emergency Medical Services Professionals Care About Patient Outcomes

Finally, EMS professionals across the nation continue to show up for work day in and day out because they truly care about their patients. They pour their hearts and souls into every call, just to save the life of complete strangers.

This unparalleled commitment to serving others and saving lives is what makes EMS professionals so much more than just ambulance drivers.