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By drewnobi
From Monument, CO
Feb 20, 2014
bouldering kid pack

I am strongly considering a career change into EMS. Does anyone have any advice specific to the front range? I am at the point where it would be wise to start doing ride alongs to make sure this is the right move. I have been in outdoor education/public school education and I have a current WFR, so I have a good exposure to patient assessment etc.

Is getting EMT-B then working while in Medic school a good plan? Does anyone have contacts for ride alongs in COS or Denver? Any help or advice is appreciated. Thanks


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By Zak Munro
From VT, Leadville CO
Feb 20, 2014
Wild Iris, Dynamitic 5.7

depending on what you want to do getting your EMT-B is a good call. I've known a few people who have gone into nursing school and couldn't stand the sight of blood and ended up having to find a different career path. At least if you got your basic you could get some ride along hours and eventually volunteer


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By Hiro
From Boulder, CO
Feb 20, 2014
Ouray Ice Park <br />Pick o' the Vic?

I've heard that some small towns will pay for people's education - I assume in exchange for a specified period of time serving their community.


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By Jon H
From Northern NJ
Feb 21, 2014
At the matching crux

Paramedic can be a career. Unfortunately, EMT-B's get paid little more than minimum wage. Top transport services can break $15/hr, but average is definitely under $10/hr. Getting your EMT cert is definitely worth it for lots of opportunities, even beyond work though. Highly recommend it, even if you decide on a different career path entirely.

Source - EMT for 13 years now.


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By drewnobi
From Monument, CO
Feb 21, 2014
bouldering kid pack

That's good input. Paramedic would be the end game for sure. I am also seriously considering going to nursing school as well. Mainly for the wide variety of work and the pay.


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By Jon H
From Northern NJ
Feb 21, 2014
At the matching crux

If you've got the chops for nursing school, absolutely go that route. Compared to paramedicine:

  • Salaries are roughly double
  • Better recognition
  • Better shift scheduling (more time to climb)
  • More opportunities to travel and work (if that's your end game)
  • Better industry support
  • More mature certification (By this I mean there's more of an industry-standard, easier to move your cert from State to State, etc)

It's a no brainer.

The industry is booming and jobs are EVERYWHERE - sort of. Right now it's very easy to find a decent job right out of nursing school, just not in Denver/Seattle/LA/SF/etc. All the "desirable" places to live have such an influx that all employers can hold out for nurses with 2-3 years experience, minimum. If you're willing to suck it up for short period in rural VA or UT or somewhere, then the rest of your life will be gravy.

On the other hand, my buddy Eric just graduated from a nursing program last May, spent 6 months searching around CO and found nothing at all, but I managed to put him in touch with some folks and BOOM, he's nursing at none other than Estes Park Hospital right now, living right in town. So anything is possible.


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By drewnobi
From Monument, CO
Feb 22, 2014
bouldering kid pack

Hmm, yeah I think it may be nursing school FTW. Now how do I feed the family while I get it done? Entry level hospital job? Deliver pizzas?


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By NickinCO
From colorado
Feb 24, 2014
after the hard stuff, into cruiser hands.

It all depends… I've worked in EMS for 10 years. If you have no interest in firefighting I would stay far away. Private based EMS gets the shit end of the stick, long hours low pay and not a lot of respect. Most people that stay in the private side are looked at as not being able to get a real fire department job. Private based EMS doesn't normally do 911 and if they do the fire department usually retains overall medical control. They usually have contracts with nursing homes doing dialysis transports, etc.

I spent 2 years working for a private ambulance company while fulfilling experience requirements for paramedic school. When I completed paramedic school I spent a year working a scab contract job also making better but also shit money with horrible benefits and lots of work. It's currently not cool to support unions I know but they are a God send for the fire service. The difference between being non-union and union (back in Chicago at least, but similar out here) is about 50k, 13 vacation days (40 days total with 24/48 schedule) and decent health insurance/benefits.

My wife is currently an ER nurse with her MSN. She has a bunch of advanced certs including CEN, CNL, ACLS/PALS instructor, etc. I work for a local professional union fire department and in my 2nd year I will be earning more than her and she's completing her 3rd year of nursing with 4 years as an ER tech before that. She works at the highest paid hospital in the Denver area. I also have no degree.

I would argue I have a better schedule. She picks her 3 12 hour shifts but she's to exhausted to do anything else on those days. Also as a new grad nurse or anytime you switch jobs you will work nights. It took her 1.5 years to get off night shift. I work 48 hours straight, usually sleep at least 6 hours a night and then I get 4 days off. I also get vacation time, 2 vacation days yields me 10 days in a row off and I can also do as many shift trades as I want. My schedule does rotate so I do work lots of holidays, birthdays, etc. and I'm gone for 48 hours at a time.

When I originally moved out here I worked as an advanced role paramedic in the ER for the largest hospital group in colorado and I'm very happy to be out of there. The job itself isn't bad but for-profit hospital management sucks. We did the same thing nurses do but for less money ($24/hr with 10 years experience). There will be more positions opening like this in the future, when I started there it was the first ER in the state that employed paramedics in this fashion. A lot of nurses are unhappy. Long hours, no recognition/reward. These are my experiences with emergency nursing.

Direct comparison salaries as a new grad paramedic I would expect to make around $15/hour and top out around $22 on the street if you're lucky, a little more in the hospital. As a new grad nurse Healthone usually offers $24/hour or up to $28 if you have experience.

If you're only interested in medicine nursing is the way to go as it also has more opportunities in different areas. The community paramedic role is just recently starting to expand and it will be years before paramedics see a fair wage.

One last edit: If you have a spouse that also works Agency nursing is pretty good. No benefits but good pay. Pay is usually around $42/hour but hours aren't guaranteed and you usually work at shitty hospitals where they can't find staff.

All that being said I'm finishing up pre-reqs to apply to nursing school. Only as a part-time job though. My schedule also allows me that perk. When I retire I plan on doing agency nursing contracts and continuously traveling.


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By drewnobi
From Monument, CO
Feb 27, 2014
bouldering kid pack

NickinCO, thanks for the info! Do you mind a pm with some more questions? I am trying to plot my course into healthcare. You seem to know the lay of the land pretty well...


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By clint dillard
From Louisville, Co
Feb 27, 2014

Looks like you are getting some good advice but I will add a little more. I took my EMT and WEMT course in 1995, Graduated Paramedic school in 1997 and PA school in 2007. My wife started as a EMT and has been ICU nurse for 8 years. My grandmother has been a nurse for 60 years and still works full time. I've worked on a county and several private ambulance services. All were 911 ambulances. I've worked on a wild fire team as a Paramedic and search and rescue. I worked in the ER as a PA and now work Family Practice in the front range. OK credentials out of the way, I tell everyone who is interested in going into medicine to take a EMT course. If anything it's good to know how to care for your buddies if someone gets injured in the back country.

What has been said about pay is spot on. EMS pay sucks but the experience and fun you will have is priceless. You can make a little more money as a tech in the ER then on a ambulance. You will likely start doing transports but that is a good way to see if you even like being around sick people. A lot of folks don't consider the sick person side of things with think about medical careers believe it or not.

They think about pay, schedule, and what cool stuff they will get to do. Everyone always say they want to help people. In reality most don't want your help but when you find the ones to that do it makes it all worth it.

If you want a stable career go to nursing school but if you have no medical experience then jobs are going to be few and far between.

If you are young and motivated consider becoming a doctor.

Being a PA is also a good career but it has become ridiculously competitive to get into school. I don't recommend becoming a PA if you don't have years of medical hands on even though there are a few schools out there that you don't need medical experience.

I have several friend who love their jobs as professional firefighters but that job is not for everyone.

PM me and I would be happy to answer any questions you have.


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By drewnobi
From Monument, CO
Feb 27, 2014
bouldering kid pack

thanks, pm sent


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By drewnobi
From Monument, CO
Feb 27, 2014
bouldering kid pack

I see EMS as a bridge to medicine, either as a PA or a nurse. It would be an intentional way to get healthcare experience while I get pre-reqs done for more school. I love the idea of EMS but I see the reality is not that spectacular, so it would be a bridge. Firefighting is super appealing, but I know it's also quite hard to get on.


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By Buff Johnson
Feb 27, 2014
smiley face

if it's any help elaborating on clint's advice, getting into a pa program might now be more difficult numbers-wise than getting into med school.


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By drewnobi
From Monument, CO
Feb 27, 2014
bouldering kid pack

Chance.
Chance.


I'm a hopeful person


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