What Does a Critical Care Paramedic Do?

Kenneth W. Michael Wills

Typically, a critical care paramedic is a certified emergency medical technician-paramedic who performs critical care support on patients in a variety of settings. Working from ambulances, critical care air transport systems, field hospitals, or in a regular hospital setting, a critical care paramedic usually reports to either a directing physician or a registered nurse in response to life threatening medical calls. Depending on where the paramedic works, duties can range from providing basic life support to assisting in the rescue of trapped victims or performing advanced life support functions, such as intravenous therapy. Those working for private first responder companies may even be called upon to handle sales, marketing and supervisory duties during the course of performing his or her regular job related tasks.

Paramedics are responsible for briefing doctors on a patient's condition upon arriving at a hospital.
Paramedics are responsible for briefing doctors on a patient's condition upon arriving at a hospital.

Job duties for a critical care paramedic will vary slightly, depending on where he or she works. Basic duties might require driving an ambulance, communicating with dispatchers, and keeping a log of all activities while on duty. When working in a hospital setting, basic duties might involve maintaining medical supply levels, performing quality control checks on communication equipment used by patients, or educating patients on how to use that equipment. Regardless of the setting, paramedics working in critical care will facilitate and foster communication between patients and other medical staff.

Paramedics are often the first responders on the scene of an accident, and must be well-trained to stabilize a number of life-threatening injuries.
Paramedics are often the first responders on the scene of an accident, and must be well-trained to stabilize a number of life-threatening injuries.

Core responsibilities in first responder settings consist of a wide range of duties. Such tasks will include assisting victims at the scene of an accident or natural disaster, setting up and monitoring triage systems, determining seriousness of conditions, administering treatment and initial life-support care, and transporting patients. In hospital settings, duties usually involve responding to calls in critical care units, assisting with regular care of patients, helping provide treatment at the direction of a registered nurse or physician, and monitoring medications. Training less experienced staff is usually a responsibility regardless of the healthcare settings.

Aside from basic and core responsibilities, a critical care paramedic will work in collaboration with other first-responders, healthcare staff and public safety personnel. Other expectations will include keeping all required certifications current and participating in continuing education as required. Knowing, understanding and adhering to all governmental and healthcare regulations, standards and policies is inherent to the job. Such regulatory functions often include adhering to ethical standards, maintaining appropriate levels of confidentiality, ensuring hygiene and safety standards, and keeping required records up-to-date. Additionally, the job may also require interacting with and educating the public about healthcare and/or safety-related matters.

Paramedics try to stabilize trauma patients before they can be brought to the emergency room.
Paramedics try to stabilize trauma patients before they can be brought to the emergency room.

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