Pros and Cons of Being an Emergency Room Technician
Emergency room technicians provide assistance with administrative duties and patient care with a hospital emergency room. Following is a list of pros and cons that can help you decide whether or not this profession is suitable for you:
|Pros of Being of Emergency Room Technician|
|No licensure required*|
|Opportunity to help save lives*|
|Can get job with a high school diploma*|
|Good job growth for the field (24% expected from 2014-2024)**|
|Cons of Being an Emergency Room Technician|
|Job can be demanding and stressful*|
|May be exposed to contagious diseases**|
|Higher-than-average risk of work-related injuries**|
|May be required to do heavy lifting when moving patients**|
Sources: *Job postings (November 2012), **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Essential Career Info
Some of the job duties performed by emergency room technicians (ER techs) are similar to those of emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics. For instance, less experienced ER techs and EMTs typically provide basic care and assessment to trauma patients. However, ER techs with more experience may have similar responsibilities to an advanced EMT or paramedic. For example, these professionals may interpret electrocardiogram (EKG) results, perform intravenous procedures and use complex equipment to monitor patients. Some other responsibilities you may have as an ER tech include documenting and reporting changes in patients' condition, communicating with patients' family members, prioritizing the flow of patients in the ER, performing wound care and transporting patients to treatment rooms.
Several job postings suggest that some professionals who choose this occupation have prior training as EMTs or paramedics. Although job duties among these professions are similar, the education requirements are not the same. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), EMTs and paramedics are required in all states to complete formal training and have a license to practice. However, these requirements do not apply to ER techs. The employment outlook for ER techs can be compared to that of EMTs and paramedics since they all involve emergency medicine. In the decade of 2014-2024, the BLS projected a 24% job increase for EMTs and paramedics, faster than the average for all occupations. As of January 2016, the salary range for ER techs was about $20,000-$46,000, according to PayScale.com.
What Are the Education Requirements?
According to job postings reviewed in November 2012, the minimum education required to become an ER tech is a high school diploma or GED. Typically, you also need to have a current basic life support card from the American Heart Association (AHA). Although you may qualify for employment with a high school education, employers usually look for candidates who've completed formal postsecondary training. Relevant programs include training as an emergency medical technician (EMT-Basic or Advanced), paramedic (EMT-P), certified nursing assistant (CNA) or hospital corpsman. Employers of ER techs may require these workers to have experience in areas such as inserting nasogastric (NG) tubes used for feeding and Foley catheters used to remove urine from the bladder, performing EKG testing and using needles to draw blood from the vein (venipuncture). In addition, you must have good communication and crisis intervention skills, be able to work in a fast-paced environment and have adequate visual and hearing.
Job Postings from Real Employers
Most job postings revealed that ER techs typically work under the supervision of a registered nurse or other professional nursing staff. Depending on the level of responsibility for the position, 1-2 years of experience may be required. Following are job postings for ER technicians that can give you some insight into what real employers looked for during November 2012.
- A Philadelphia, PA, hospital sought a candidate to work under the supervision of a registered nurse or licensed practical nurse. Job duties included helping patients with daily activities and keeping the work area clean. This employer requested an applicant with a high school diploma or GED and strong communication skills.
- A hospital in Florida looked for an applicant to assist nurses and physicians with emergency treatment. The requirements for this position included at least one year of experience as an emergency room technician and a current basic life support card from the AHA.
- A hospital in Washington, DC, sought an emergency room technician II to provide nursing care and monitor patients. The candidate must have had a high school diploma or equivalent, hospital certification as an emergency technician I, arrhythmia certification, CPR certification and certification in the insertion of NG tubes and Foley catheters. The employer preferred candidates with at least two years of experience and formal training.
- A university hospital in St. Louis, MO, wanted to hire a full-time ER tech to provide patient care, perform clerical duties and assist in teaching students rotating through the ER. The candidate must have had a high school diploma and basic life support certification.
How to Stand Out in the Field
You can gain a competitive advantage in the field by completing a training course or obtaining a certification that's relevant to the job. Some job postings showed that employers prefer to hire candidates who have training or certification in areas such as phlebotomy, arrhythmia monitoring, advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) and pediatric advanced life support (PALS).
Organizations such as the American Society of Phlebotomy Technicians (ASPT) and the National Healthcareer Association (NHA) offer the Certified Phlebotomy Technician (CPT) designation. The AHA offers the ACLS and the PALS certification. You can complete courses to obtain the ACLS or the PALS certification online or at a college or university. Many colleges also offer courses in electrocardiography, which can lead to a basic or advanced arrhythmia recognition certificate.
Alternative Career Paths
You can also have a career responding to emergencies as a firefighter. Although firefighters are not considered healthcare professionals, they most often respond to medical emergencies. For instance, firefighters are usually the first responders to an auto accident, according to the BLS. The BLS also noted that many of these professionals have an emergency medical technician (EMT) certification. In addition, firefighters typically complete a postsecondary program in fire science or another related field. As of May 2011, the median salary earned by these professionals was about $45,000, according to the BLS. The BLS reported that firefighters were expected to have a nine percent growth in employment from 2010-2020.
If you enjoy performing life-saving procedures on patients but don't want to focus on emergency medicine, then consider becoming a physician assistant. In this position, your duties involve examining and treating patients under the supervision of a doctor or surgeon, making preliminary diagnoses and prescribing medication. To work in this field, you need to complete a post-baccalaureate physician assistant program that typically leads to a master's degree. According to the BLS, you need a license to work as a physician assistant in all states.
The BLS also found that the employment level for physician assistants was expected to increase at a much faster-than-average rate of 30% from 2010-2020. With more physicians working in a medical specialty and the increased likelihood of health problems among the elderly population, more physician assistants will be needed to provide healthcare. The BLS also noted that these professionals earned a median salary of about $89,000, as of May 2011.