Doctors and nurses in busy emergency rooms diagnose and treat patients as capably as their colleagues but at high speed and under extreme pressure. They need as much help as possible to treat patients, and emergency room technicians provide this service. ER technicians help by attending to the technical and logistical side of patient care, freeing doctors and nurses to focus on diagnosis and treatment.
Emergency room technicians require a broad range of basic skills. This includes certification in CPR, and understanding other emergency-care fundamentals. The ability to differentiate between mild and serious injuries helps the ER doctors and nurses focus on the most critical cases first. ER techs know how to operate, calibrate, test and monitor the equipment used in the ER. They understand patients' rights, appropriate procedures for hazardous materials or infection control, and use computer skills to enter or retrieve patient data.
As patients arrive in the emergency room, techs often see them first. You quickly assess their condition, or if the patient's coming from an ambulance, the EMT briefs you. Patients in serious condition see a doctor or nurse immediately, but ER techs also provide basic care such as splinting or bandaging. Other duties include taking blood, tissue or urine samples for laboratory testing; connecting patients to an ECG machine to monitor their heart rate; catheterizing and intubating patients if needed; or setting up an IV for the doctor's use. Having the physical strength to lift, turn or restrain the patient, helps with patient care.
Indirect patient care includes calming and reassuring patients and coaching them in the use of crutches or other equipment. ER room preparation includes keeping the emergency room stocked with sterile supplies and single-use disposable items. Part of your time is spent record-keeping -- entering patient and treatment data into the facility's computer system. Keeping the ER clean and sanitary, and checking the ER at the beginning and end of every shift completes your daily job duties.
Get started as an emergency room technician by qualifying as a nurses' aide or EMT. This usually requires hands-on experience and a certificate program taking up to one year. Emergency room training typically takes a few additional months to complete. Some schools offer a two-year associate degree combining the basic CNA or EMT education with more advanced ER training. Some states require licensing or registration for ER techs, while others accept your CNA or EMT certification. For statistical purposes, the Bureau of Labor Statistics includes ER technicians with CNA or EMT jobs. It projects a 20 percent job growth for nurses' aides by 2020, and 33 percent growth for EMTs.
Fred Decker is a trained chef and certified food-safety trainer. Decker wrote for the Saint John, New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal, and has been published in Canada's Hospitality and Foodservice magazine. He's held positions selling computers, insurance and mutual funds, and was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.