EMS/Nursing vs. Firefighting

BHammond1

Forum Probie
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Greetings all, I've posted a few times here but not for a while. I have a BA and am currently working at a residential treatment facility for teens, but I'm interested in the emergency services field. In the downtime before my EMT-B program begins in March I'm trying to figure out which specific field I'm the most interested in.

I am interested in firefighting, getting my paramedic, and/or working as a RN. I have a learning disability in math so that does concern me somewhat, but by no means am I going to let that stand in my way. My plan right now is to volunteer at a fire department, get my EMT-B under my belt, and see which field I like more. I think that that will mostly determine which path I take, because if I like the medical field more I will obviously lean towards a RN degree. I know the RN offers me more flexibility and better pay, but I feel pulled towards the on-the-street, response-oriented nature of firefighting and EMS too.

I know you guys can't tell me what to do or put yourself in my shoes even, but I am wondering if any of you have advice that you'd want to give out to a newbie in the field. Basically, what would you have wanted to know when you were starting to enter the field? Is there any advice that you could give me in regards to the pros and cons of each field?
 

fast65

Doogie Howser FP-C
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Greetings all, I've posted a few times here but not for a while. I have a BA and am currently working at a residential treatment facility for teens, but I'm interested in the emergency services field. In the downtime before my EMT-B program begins in March I'm trying to figure out which specific field I'm the most interested in.

I am interested in firefighting, getting my paramedic, and/or working as a RN. I have a learning disability in math so that does concern me somewhat, but by no means am I going to let that stand in my way. My plan right now is to volunteer at a fire department, get my EMT-B under my belt, and see which field I like more. I think that that will mostly determine which path I take, because if I like the medical field more I will obviously lean towards a RN degree. I know the RN offers me more flexibility and better pay, but I feel pulled towards the on-the-street, response-oriented nature of firefighting and EMS too.

I know you guys can't tell me what to do or put yourself in my shoes even, but I am wondering if any of you have advice that you'd want to give out to a newbie in the field. Basically, what would you have wanted to know when you were starting to enter the field? Is there any advice that you could give me in regards to the pros and cons of each field?

I don't know if I can really give you the pros and cons of each subject, however I just wanted to reinforce your idea of volunteering for the fire dept. and getting your EMT-B; that way you'll at least get some sort of idea of what you want to do. Keep in mind, you can still do all of the above if you really can't decide; you can work as an RN and volunteer as a fire-medic once you finish school.

As far as having a learning disability in math, I wouldn't worry about it too much, the calculations that paramedics have to do aren't overly complicated.
 

uhbt420

Forum Crew Member
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volunteer in a fire dept AND in a hospital, preferrably in a nurse's station. that way you can see how both work.

nursing offers higher scope of practice, more education, etc but it is usually in a controlled, clinical environment. if you prefer uncontrolled street medicine then firemedic is probably more your fit

nursing and firefighter subcultures are two different animals. you just have to get a glimpse of both and make your decision

(and politely ignore any comments about firefighters not being healthcare professionals, there are many fire depts where ems is very important)
 

Linuss

Forum Chief
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nursing offers higher scope of practice, more education

No, it does't. I truly wish people would quit perpetuating this fallacy.

You cannot compare the scopes and education of nursing to paramedicine, as they are truly apples and oranges.




The only thing you can say that will hold true a majority of the time is RNs tend to make more than Paramedics. If you want money, RN will probably be a better bet.
 

46Young

Level 25 EMS Wizard
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Do you want to be a firefighter or do you want to be a healthcare professional?

If you live in the right area, you can do both and be very well off financially. Over here, the FFM starts at 53k and quickly goes to the low 70's after the academy and ALS internship. The OT opportunities are copious until you get to the Lt. level. They make anywhere from 90k to 120k USD, depending on pay step if they're also ALS certified and regularly ride EMS txp units. When you replace that reduced OT opportunity with 50 dollars an hour as a nurse, you'll live like a king. That's what I'm aiming for. FT Fire/EMS officer, and per diem RN.
 

46Young

Level 25 EMS Wizard
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@ the OP,

See my above post. If compensation, benefits, retirement, schedule, etc. are the most important to you, then I would suggest going FT as a career FF/medic. Do nursing part time. You may not be able to explore all the different areas nursing has to offer, but you'll be well taken care off on all accounts. Try finding a place that offers both a pension and a DROP. A DROP is where you effectively retire, and then work several more years and both continue to earn your check, and also receive your pension checks for that time period, typically 3-5 years, in deferred comp. It's a huge boost to retirement at the end of your career. Most can't save the requisite 10% of their pay each year to have even a chance at a decent retirement. You'll have a pension and the DROP to cover you well.

I'd recommend getting your RN first, and then find a way to either challence the medic exam, or do an accelerated EMT-P program. Going back to get your RN while doing rotating shift work can be difficult. Also, more and more FD's give heavy weight for promotions to those that carry degrees.

Having said that, being a nurse and having the opportunity to advance to all the different areas involved may be more important to you. I would then suggest that you do nursing FT, and then find a dept that hires FF/medics part time or per diem to get your kicks. Virginia has a bunch of them, typically volunteer FD's that have started to hire limited career staff, those that already possess their FF1 and FF2 along with EMT-I or P.

Really, if firefighting and 911 EMS ground txp appeal to you the most, then go in that dierction. If medicine in the broad sense appeals to you more, then go in that direction. You have to be happy in your chosen career.
 
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Aerin-Sol

Forum Captain
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Check into the requirements for paramedic and accelerated BSN degrees in your area. Most will require a year of Anatomy & Physiology, so if you didn't take those during your first degree, you have at least a year before you have to make that decision. Use that time for working as an EMT, volunteering as a firefighter, and volunteering at a hospital or working as an ER Tech. Then you can make a better decision than strangers on the internet. =)
 
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BHammond1

Forum Probie
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Check into the requirements for paramedic and accelerated BSN degrees in your area. Most will require a year of Anatomy & Physiology, so if you didn't take those during your first degree, you have at least a year before you have to make that decision. Use that time for working as an EMT, volunteering as a firefighter, and volunteering at a hospital or working as an ER Tech. Then you can make a better decision than strangers on the internet. =)

Thanks for your reply, Aerin and everybody else. I know you all are "strangers on the Internet," but at the same time most of you are professionals in the field I'm looking into and thus your opinions do hold some credence.

I am initially more attracted to street medicine as a firemedic, but I know that the competition can be brutal to get hired on to a paid fire department. Working off of pure economics is against my nature, but before I landed my current job I was in the wind for six months looking for one. Having gotten a taste of that uncertainty and having a pointless Bachelors degree (English), working as a RN does appeal to me due to the security and the pay. Plus, my mom has worked as a nurse my entire life so I'm familiar with the schedule, lifestyle, etc.

Nevertheless, I don't get the same sort of excitement looking at a hospital that I do looking at a fire engine or an ambulance. I know both are jobs and that work is work, but I guess I'm sort of stuck in a passion vs. job security argument.
 

Aerin-Sol

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Nevertheless, I don't get the same sort of excitement looking at a hospital that I do looking at a fire engine or an ambulance. I know both are jobs and that work is work, but I guess I'm sort of stuck in a passion vs. job security argument.

I feel you there, but after six months of working on an ambulance, I don't find it quite as exciting as I used to.
 

Indy

Forum Crew Member
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To fill in on the Paramedic vs. Nursing topic, Paramedics have a lot harder of a job than nurses. My sister is a nurse in an ICU, so she would argue this but a paramedic has a harder job than nurses do.
 
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TransportJockey

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Just after working as a floor tech I have to disagree with this. Med/surg and ed nurses work their asses off every day, while a medic might have several hours of downtime. ICU nurses tend to have more free time than RNs on other units due to low patient load (and generally a decent amount of those patients are tubed :p )
To fill in on the Paramedic vs. Nursing topic, Paramedics have a lot harder of a job than nurses. My sister is a nurse in an ICU, so she would argue this but a paramedic has a harder job than nurses do.
 

Linuss

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Hardness of a job, just like who's better at ivs, cannot be argued.

Are there medics with off time? Yupp. Are there nurses with plenty of off time too, even at a county hospital such as Parkland? You bet.


But go to station 33 in Dallas. Or station 19 in Miami. Or any MedStar truck. Or any Detroit truck. And tell me they don't run their butts off on a regular basis.



Both professions have their sides that run all day, or hardly run at all, therefor you cannot say one is harder than another in the aspect of patient / call volume.




Now, what CAN be argued is the complexity of field medicine compared to hospital medicine. Two totally different beasts, with field medicine having issue that those iin a hospital couldn't dream of.
 
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phildo

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Get your RN BEFORE you get locked into a full time schedule in Fire or EMS. Hire on as a firefighter, let them pay for your emt-b cert, then challenge the paramedic exam. Then do fire full time, nursing on your off days. You'll have much better benefits and retirement in fire service than in EMS or nursing. Live on your FD pay, bank as much of your prn nursing pay as you can.
 

ertech

Forum Probie
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I work as an Emt and as an Er tech,for now.I will be going back to school and will further my education in both fields.being on the street is far more exciting,than being in a building all day.
 

JPINFV

Gadfly
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Now, what CAN be argued is the complexity of field medicine compared to hospital medicine. Two totally different beasts, with field medicine having issue that those iin a hospital couldn't dream of.

...and medical care in the hospital deals with issues that EMS either willfully ignores or can't comprehend.
 

gicts

Forum Lieutenant
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The busy-ness is a wash like Linus said. I've had nurses say they never got into EMS because they didn't like the one-on-one responsibilities and liability.
Personally, I could never deal with doctors all day :p. I think that is the reason they are paid so well :ph34r:.

If the medical field is for you, get into a second degree BSN program and don't look back. I know of some programs that offer a master's program in a year for full time students.

A nursing profession offers different career paths if you wish (NP, CRNA etc.), promotions, raises, and different enviroments (surgery, ER, doc's office etc.)- all of the things you wish to see in a career. I'll be so bold as to say EMS doesn't deliver in any of those aspects.
 
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46Young

Level 25 EMS Wizard
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To fill in on the Paramedic vs. Nursing topic, Paramedics have a lot harder of a job than nurses. My sister is a nurse in an ICU, so she would argue this but a paramedic has a harder job than nurses do.

How so? Medics only have to deal with one pt at a time. Nurses can be covering two, three, up to nine or more in some cases. Even if we're running non-stop, we can at least hold a signal for a few minutes to open the cooler and have a meal.
 

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