Making the transition from military medic to paramedic should be painless

One would think that transitioning from a military medic to a civilian paramedic would be easy

Making the transition from military medic to paramedic should be painless

by Mike Williamson, BS, NREMT-Paramedic via NAEMT

The military, without doubt, produces some highly trained medics. With education and training coupled with multiple deployments, the average military medic functions somewhere between the civilian EMT-Intermediate and paramedic levels. Some of our special operations medics and independent duty Navy corpsmen function at the level of paramedic, physician assistant or registered nurse.

With all of their training and experience, one would think that transitioning from a military medic to a civilian paramedic would be an easy endeavor. However, too often it is a challenging and arduous process that forces the military medic to start at square one and complete much of the same education and training that he or she has previously completed. If the military medics have attained their EMT-Basic certification from the National Registry, some states will certify or license them as basic EMTs. Here is one success story of an Army flight medic who overcame the barriers he faced and made the transition.

SSG Robert Hartgraves, a flight medic with the 77th Aviation Brigade of the Arkansas Army National Guard, had a goal of becoming a paramedic. When he was not on one of his three deployments, he worked as an EMT for his local EMS service. Robert had enrolled in a paramedic course in 2006 but did not get to complete the process due to his military obligations.

As an infantry medic and later a flight medic, he functioned at the paramedic level while on deployments but upon returning to his civilian job, could not use any of the advanced skills he had learned. Robert said, “At times it was frustrating while working on the ambulance. Many times I knew what to do and how to do it, and could have been a tremendous asset to my partner, but my hands were tied, as I was licensed as an EMT-Basic.”

During his last deployment, Robert became more determined to find a way to achieve his goal. Upon returning from by Mike Williamson, BS, NREMT-Paramedic his third deployment in 2011, Robert started a new job as an EMT with Vital Link EMS, based in Batesville, Ark. He had heard that the University of Arkansas Community College of Batesville offered an outstanding paramedic program. The only problem was that the course was currently in progress and he would likely have to wait another year to pursue his goal. He approached the program director, Mr. Wesley Gay, to obtain more information. It was from that meeting that Gay realized the education, training and experience that Robert already had. He agreed to review his military and civilian transcripts to see what he could do.

Gay said, “After talking with Robert for a few minutes, it was clear that this guy knew his stuff . I continued the interview and after review of his transcripts and listening to his long list of experience, I concluded that he in fact had enough credit to start the next semester of the program. It seemed senseless to make this guy repeat everything again.”

Robert was elated. Th is meant he would not have to delay his goal nor would he have to repeat everything that he had previously done. Robert enrolled in August of 2011 and proudly graduated in December of that year. I asked Mr. Gay about what it was like having Robert as a student. He replied: “There were times during the class that I wondered why he wasn’t teaching that portion of the course. His knowledge base is incredible. It is obvious that his military training and experience has prepared him to be an outstanding medic.”

Robert passed his National Registry exam the first time and is proudly working as a paramedic and still serves his state and country as an Army flight medic. SSG Robert Hartgraves was determined to eliminate the duplication of his military medic training and experience and gain recognition for his level of EMS expertise. To honor and recognize the high-level training of military medics, NAEMT is supporting federal legislation assisting in the transition process.

About the author

Formed in 1975 and more than 32,000 members strong, the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians (NAEMT) is the nation’s only organization solely dedicated to representing the professional interests of all EMS practitioners, including those in special operations and the military. Learn more about the benefits of becoming an NAEMT member.