A paramedic responds to 911 calls to administer care to sick or injured patients in emergency situations. They are trained to apply first-aid treatment and perform basic life-support techniques such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Paramedics are often the first contact point between the injured or sick and healthcare. As such, they are responsible for making initial assessments and transporting patients to the hospital.
Paramedics are entrusted with the important job of providing lifesaving care in the event of an emergency. As such, they must possess the discipline, disposition, and quick wit needed to provide effective care as quickly as possible.
Paramedic responsibilities may include:
- Responding to emergency calls
- Driving or staffing emergency vehicles
- Diagnosing patients
- Dressing wounds
- Administering medication
- Using specialized equipment
Paramedics are often the only thing standing between a patient and death. In order to provide lifesaving care as quickly as possible, a skilled paramedic will:
- Operate effectively under extremely stressful conditions
- Work long shifts regularly
- Communicate with patients in order to best diagnose them
- Make quick, informed decisions
- Maintain professionalism at all times when driving or riding in an emergency vehicle
In order to gain an entry-level position, candidates will need to become a student paramedic with an ambulance service trust or study for an approved paramedic course which can range from 30 weeks to 5 years. Previous experience in healthcare, such as in assisted living, can help you stand out from other applicants.
If you’re getting ready to interview for a position as a paramedic, you can prepare by researching the company as much as possible. Learn about the 9 things you should research before an interview.
Salaries for Paramedics range between $42K and $66K with the median being $52K.
Factors impacting the salary you receive as a paramedic include:
- Degrees and Training (high school, associate's, bachelor's, specialized certifications)
- Years of Experience
- Reporting Structure (seniority of the supervisor you report to, number of direct reports such as junior paramedics and volunteers)
- Level of Performance - exceeding expectations
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Paramedic Interview Questions
Question: This job can be stressful and isn’t suited for everyone. What do you do to stay calm?
Explanation: This is a general question which the interviewer will ask early during the interview. General questions are intended to get you talking, find out more about you, and provide the interviewer with additional topics to explore.
Example: “When I decided to become a paramedic, I realized the job would be very stressful. I’ve always managed to handle stress well and don’t become upset when faced with a challenge. I’ve learned to focus on the task at hand and the desired outcome. It is this quality that led me to want to become a first responder.”
Question: Describe the most challenging call you ever received as a paramedic.
Explanation: This is another general question that will provide the interviewer with an idea of the type of experiences you’ve had as a paramedic. By describing your most challenging call, you’re providing the interviewer with an idea of the scope of the incidents you’ve had to encounter during your career.
Example: “During the several years I have been a paramedic, I’ve responded to many different types of incidents. The majority of these were fairly routine. However, some were extreme and presented some daunting challenges. The most challenging was when I had to respond to a shooting in an area controlled by street gangs. Nobody wanted us there, and it became very tense when members from rival gangs showed up on the scene. Fortunately, there was a large presence of law enforcement there, and they were able to protect us while we attended the patient.”
Question: Paramedics work in teams and often interface with other first responders. Can you describe a situation in which you were required to work as part of a team?
Explanation: This is an example of an operational question. Interviewers ask operational questions to get an idea of how you will function in the position for which you are applying. Operational questions are best answered by describing the process you use to address the situation described by the interviewer.
Example: “Teamwork is a key element of being a paramedic. This is not a job you can perform alone. I recently went on a call that involved responders from the fire department and the police. The first thing we did was identify the on-scene incident commander. We then followed the orders they issued working side by side with the other emergency personnel.”
Question: Have you ever had to deal with a difficult or aggressive patient? What did you do to accomplish the task?
Explanation: The interviewer is asking you a behavioral question. Since paramedics have to be certified and meet rigid qualifications, by the time you get to the interview, it is assumed that you can do the job. The interviewer is trying to determine how you will behave when placed in stressful situations. You can expect a lot of behavioral questions as part of the interview. The best way to respond to behavioral questions is by using the STAR framework. You describe the Situation, state the Task you need to accomplish, detail the Actions you took, and discuss the Results you achieved.
Example: "Unfortunately, as a paramedic, you often encounter aggressive patients. On a recent call, we had to deal with a gentleman who was very combative. We had to overcome this to administer the care he needed to survive. I took the lead and assumed an air of authority. I explained that we were there to help and were not going to let him interfere with our mission. Once he understood that we were going to do our job regardless of his behavior, he calmed down. We were then able to administer the care he required. I learned later that he fully recovered as a result of our efforts.”
Question: Can you describe a situation where you followed specific rules and procedures?
Explanation: This is another operational question in which the interviewer is seeking to understand how well you follow prescribed procedures. This is extremely important as a paramedic. Based on your experience, you should have many situations you can share with the interviewer to demonstrate your ability to follow strict procedures.
Example: ”During my training, our instructors emphasized the importance of following procedures when operating as a paramedic. This not only benefited the patients but also kept us safe and helped avoid conflicts. On a recent call, it was apparent that the patient was not critical, and we could’ve wrapped up the call very quickly. However, we still followed the protocol, even though it meant more time and effort on our part. To have done otherwise would have violated the organization's policies and potentially resulted in disciplinary action against my partner and me.”
Question: Give me an example of a time on the job when you had to be flexible.
Explanation: Being flexible and adaptive is a key quality paramedics must possess. No two days are alike, and you never know what you will encounter when you respond to a call. The interviewer is seeking to understand whether you’re flexible and can deal with changing situations.
Example: “Early in my career as a paramedic, I learned I had to be flexible and adapt to change. No two calls are alike, and sometimes, things change once you’ve arrived on the scene and begin administering care. You still need to follow protocol, but you also need to be able to make adjustments based on the specific situations you encounter in order to be successful in this role.”
Question: As a paramedic, how do you deal with a drunken and abusive patient?
Explanation: The interviewer is asking you another operational question to see how you would respond to a situation common to the job of a paramedic. Many calls involve drunk and abusive patients, so you have to be effective in dealing with people in this condition. You can either project how you would handle the situation going forward or relate an incident where you did this in the past.
Example: “I have responded to many calls involving patients who had consumed too much alcohol. Sometimes they are passive, but often they are abusive and combative. On some occasions, I can talk them down and get them to cooperate by using my communication skills. Other times, it’s obvious this won’t work. In these cases, I call for backup from law enforcement. I don’t like doing this, but it is often required for both my safety and the safety of the patient.”
Question: How would you handle a call which involves multiple agencies and requires a great deal of coordination?
Explanation: The interviewer is asking you a behavioral question to determine how you would respond to a specific situation you’re likely to encounter on the job. Remember to use the STAR framework when responding to behavioral questions.
Example: “The majority of calls I respond to as a paramedic involve personnel from other first responder agencies. The more time you spend on the job in a specific area, the more familiar you become with other first responders. This generates an atmosphere of cooperation and simplifies the need for coordination. On a recent call, we arrived before the police did. Even though it was a crime scene, we immediately began administering aid to the injured parties while being careful not to disrupt the scene or compromise any evidence. When the police finally arrived, they appreciated our care and even helped us prepare a patient to be transported to the hospital. As a result, the patient recovered, and the police were able to process the scene and eventually make an arrest.”
Question: What do you do to maintain, improve, or update your skills as a paramedic?
Explanation: This is another operational question. Paramedics, like many other safety personnel, spend a great deal of time training and maintaining their skills. You should have a training program and regimen that you follow and specific steps you take to stay current with both your certifications and the skills you need to perform your job.
Example: “As a paramedic, training is perhaps the main thing I spend my time on. Not only are we required to train to maintain our certifications, but it also makes sense for us to stay sharp in our skills and learn new ones as they become available. First and foremost, I participate in all of the department's training programs and make sure I take the required classes. I also spend a great deal of time researching new developments in the field of medicine and emergency services. I incorporate these into my practice so that I become more effective in what I do.”
Question: What are the different types of environments you have had to work in as a paramedic?
Explanation: An interviewer will ask you this type of question to determine if you are experienced in some of the areas in which their department typically works. This may not be an absolute requirement for the job, but if you do have experience in these areas, it will help differentiate you from the other applicants. The key to answering this question is to be honest and not exaggerate your capabilities.
Example: “Like your department, most of my experience has been within urban areas. I have spent a lot of time on city streets, in ethnic neighborhoods, and operating in high-rise buildings. I am very comfortable operating in these types of environments.”
Additional Paramedic Interview Questions
What would you do if a supervisor gives you a direct order against company policy?
An emergency call interfered with your plan to go to a very important family occasion. What do you do?
Are you familiar with medical protocols and HIPPA?
What made you choose a career as a paramedic?
How would you deal with a family member who is trying to get to a patient who is strictly confined?
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A word of warning when using question lists.
Question lists offer a convenient way to start practicing for your interview. Unfortunately, they do little to recreate actual interview pressure. In a real interview you’ll never know what’s coming, and that’s what makes interviews so stressful.
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