In recent years, the demand for EMS professionals like emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics has risen higher than ever. Contrary to how it might be portrayed on the news or in medical dramas, however, working in emergency medical services isn’t at all a glorious affair most of the time. For instance, medical first responders have to work long hours in very chaotic situations. The nature of their work makes it extremely physically and mentally demanding, and often leaves them with little time for rest and leisure. Still, many active medical first responders will say that it’s these very difficulties that help make the work self-fulfilling. 

Those interested in careers in EMS can explore the possibility of becoming EMTs or paramedics—the latter of which is a higher-level, more specialized profession in the field of pre-hospital healthcare. Aspiring first responders can expect to undergo extensive education and training before they’re licensed and allowed to work in the field. Needless to say, it takes a certain kind of person to make the cut—but beyond being interested and eager to help, how can you tell that working as a first responder in EMS might be right for you? Read on to find out.

You’re Good with Technology

If you enjoy learning your way around complicated tech, that’s one good sign for your future career as a medical first responder. EMS is highly technical work, requiring familiarity with many different kinds of equipment and complex technology. EMS providers need to be confident in handling the various tools and systems at their disposal, and they also need to be able to use those tools resourcefully when responding to actual emergency calls. The most advanced EMS providers currently active, for instance, usually make use of state-of-the-art EMS scheduling software to coordinate crew scheduling and dispatches more efficiently. Many EMS agencies also utilize digitized forms and record-keeping systems, such as those available from Michigan-based developer Traumasoft, to cut time spent on documenting tasks.

You’re in Good Physical Condition

EMTs and paramedics need to be able to lift, transport, and otherwise physically assist unconscious or incapacitated patients regularly. Because helping to move patients is such a fundamental part of the job, strength, stamina, and general physical fitness are an absolute must for first responders. It would be a good start, then, to build your strength and get regular exercise if you’re considering a career in front-line EMS. Likewise, consider submitting yourself for regular physical checkups and examinations to assess your body’s overall condition. 

You’re Not Picky About How You Eat or Sleep

Given the nature of their work, practicing EMTs and paramedics often don’t have time to sit down for full meals or get a whole night’s sleep. Most of the time, they have to eat and nap whenever and wherever they can. If you’re already the sort of person who can fall asleep anywhere—in the front seats of cars, with your head on a table, or even standing against a wall—then you’ll fit right into the job of an EMS first responder. Doubly so if you’ve got an iron stomach to boot, as many EMTs and paramedics regularly consume convenience store food, repacked leftovers, or free meals provided by hospitals. In fact, many people who work in EMS will joke that a definition of a good meal is one where you can actually sit down to eat.

You Rarely Find Yourself Rattled or Fazed

Being able to make sound judgment calls and act swiftly and decisively even in high-stakes, stressful situations is a must for anyone working as a first responder in EMS. Conditions and possible outcomes during a medical emergency can and do frequently shift in a matter of seconds. Thus, competent EMTs and paramedics must have the focus and presence of mind to assess the situation at any moment and decide on appropriate treatments. They then need to implement those treatments speedily to secure the best possible outcome for the patient. Given these conditions, the ability to keep a cool head at all times is critical and potentially life-saving.

You Love Working with People

If you pursue a career in EMS, you are expected to work as a cohesive unit with other team members. Forging strong, trusting relationships with your co-workers will help you work together more smoothly and efficiently. Ultimately, building rapport with your team members will help enhance the quality of the care you’re collectively able to provide. 

Beyond patients and team members, you can also expect to interact with all sorts of people—such as family members, hospital personnel, even members of the media. In such moments you may be called upon to communicate difficult information in a clear and concise way. At other times, you might have to diffuse tense situations and help the people you come into contact with stay comfortable and calm. Whatever interpersonal situations you find yourself in as a medical first responder, empathy and well-developed social skills are an undeniable key.


Working as a first responder in EMS is certainly not for the faint of heart. After all, it’s a career that’s fundamentally about beating the odds—bringing all your skills, knowledge, and resources to save lives. Those who think they have it in them to rise to its many challenges, however, are likely to find the work immensely rewarding and self-fulfilling as well. Should you choose to push past your own limits and embrace the challenges, there’ll be no end to the amount of people you can help.