What Hours Do EMTs Work & What Does A Typical EMTs Schedule Look Like?

What Shifts Do EMTsParamedics Work

However, this leaves us wondering what kind of shifts these lifesavers actually do work, and if you were to go into that career, what impact would this kind of work schedule have on your health and your happiness?

It can be a complex consideration if you are considering a career in Emergency Medical Care, and it is sensible to research it, so you can decide if it is for you or not. This is why today, we have got all the facts on how EMTs and Paramedics work, for your peace of mind. 

A typical EMT, or Paramedic shift can be anything from 8, to 10, to 12-hour days or nights. They will often work an average of 36 to 48 hours per week, as well as overtime.

There are some less common schedules, these may be 24 hours, or even 48-hour long workdays, however the schedule will depend on which agency they work for. 

Without any further ado, let’s get into the answers of exactly what you should expect working in the EMT field. 

What are the working hours of an Emergency Medical Technician?

So, what exactly are the hours for an EMT? Well, there is no standard work pattern for all EMTs. As you may expect, hours worked will vary depending on the specifics of the job you do, and even where you do that job. 

Generally, a majority of EMTs work for employers that will expect EMT staff to be available regardless of the day or time.

Simply because emergencies don’t choose when they happen, and people will have emergencies on holidays, during the night and early hours of the morning, and they will happen on your birthday too, so EMT’s need to be available regardless of the time, because a heart attack or a severe injury incident won’t wait until you have finished your dinner.

This can also mean that an EMT might also end up working more than just 40 hours a week to provide complete coverage on shifts, of course this is especially likely during the times of year when accidents are more likely to occur, the holidays are known for this. It is not impossible for an EMT to work 50 or even 60 hours a week. 

Unfortunately, even when you are off work, as an EMT you might not ‘technically’ be off work.

You see, most EMTs will be expected to remain on call for at least a small portion of their downtime just in case there is a major emergency, or other problems that may lead to the employer not having all the staff required for the shift or emergency on hand.

This again depends on your employer, the area in which you work, and your contract. 

What does a typical schedule look like?

Again, this is no easy question to answer, it really depends on whom you work for and what exactly it is that you will do as an EMT.

It will also depend on where you live. EMTs and Paramedics can work in plenty of different settings, and this will affect the type of work that is scheduled, and the schedule overall. 

For example, if you live in a more rural area, you may be more likely to be asked to follow a 24-hour shift pattern, than if you live in a more urban area. This can be a good thing, however, this is really up to your personal preference.

In a moment, we will look at some EMT schedules with you. Just be aware that these can vary significantly, and your employer is under no obligation to follow any shift patterns but their own. 

So, If you are working on an Ambulance, your schedule would be a few things.

Those who work for private or public ambulance services can expect to work 12-hour shifts, i.e. 9am to 9pm, and so on. This is one of the more common schedules. 

It is possible that this could be on a 4-day on, 3 day off rotation such as; 

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

12 hrs on

12 hrs on

12 hrs on

Off

Off

Off

12 hrs on

It could also be a 4-day on 4 day off rotation, such as; 

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday 

Saturday

Sunday

12 hrs on

12 hrs on

12 hrs on

12 hrs on

Off

Off

Off

Off

12 hrs on

12 hrs on

12 hrs on

12 hrs on

Off

Off

In some cases, an EMT may be expected to work a 24-hour shift. If you worked a 24-hour  shift then you are usually given a minimum 24 hours to recover, or in most cases 48 hours of downtime as you will need time to recover physically and mentally.

There is a wide variety of 24 -hour shift options. The most common is a 24/48 hour rotation and averages at a 56-hour week average. It looks a bit like this; 

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

24 hrs on

Off

Off

24 hrs on

Off

Off

24 hrs on

Off

Off

24 hrs on

Off

Off

24 hrs on

Off

Ambulance companies will occasionally require EMT workers to be on-call at times. Your employer might then contact you at any time while you are off and ask you to return when they are short of staff, however, this is subjective. 

Fire Department Work

The Bureau of Labor Statistics pulls no punches when they state that working for a Fire Department can be an intense job with a very unpredictable work schedule. 

Those who are EMTs or Paramedics working for a Fire Department can work within two primary roles. 

They would be a Firefighter/EMT or Firefighter/Paramedic. 

Or they could be an Ambulance EMT or Paramedic.  

In the United States, a majority of firefighters are also trained and certified in Emergency medicine to the same level of those who work on an ambulance.

They will have the same EMT and Paramedic licenses and can therefore also perform all of the same life-saving treatments. So we really are talking about firefighter schedules in this example. 

That being said, some Fire Departments will also operate their own emergency ambulance services that will be able to transport sick or injured patients to the local hospitals.

They might be staffed with the same firefighters who work on the trucks and engines, or they may have employers that are trained in Emergency Medical Services, but not in firefighting. It can work either way. 

If this is the case, then these Fire Department EMTs and Paramedics may work different shifts than the firefighters do. EMTs and Paramedics with fire departments will typically work around 48 to 56 hours per week, these can be 8, 10, or 24-hour shifts.

If they work a full 24 hours, they will get a 48-hour respite time off, much like in other EMT examples we saw earlier. 

However, it is also worth noting that when there is a big emergency, an EMT with the fire department will be expected to extend their shift and continue working.

This is something called ‘emergency overtime’, or ‘mandatory callback’. It does depend on the specifics of a situation, though. 

Hospital working

Doctor, Nurse, Paramedics medical emergency

If you seek a sense of normality when it comes to doing EMT shift work, then hospital work is an option for you. EMTs and Paramedics in hospitals will typically work 8 hours or 12 hours shifts as a standard, although there is still an occasional requirement to work nights. 

If you work 12-hour shift schedules at a hospital as an EMT, it may look something like this; 

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

12 hrs on

Off

12 hrs on

Off

off

Off

12 hrs on

If you work 8-hour shifts at a hospital as an EMT, it might look like this; 

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

Off

8 hrs on

8 hrs on

Off

8 hrs on

off

8 hrs on

Looking at the examples above, you can see that in a hospital the average work week is usually similar to 36 hours, instead of 48.

Hospital schedules will vary a lot, and you will usually only be assigned your work days a month ahead of time, which doesn’t allow for a great deal of planning activities outside of work, however it is a bit better than the other EMT options. 

This means that a monthly schedule could easily look like this; 

Sunday

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

12 hrs on

12 hrs on

Off

Off

Off

12 hrs on

Off

12 hrs on

Off

Off

Off

12 hrs on

off

12 hrs on

12 hrs on

off

12 hrs on

Off

12 hrs on

Off

Off

Off

12 hrs on

Off

Off

12 hrs on

12 hrs on

Off

Off

Off

12 hrs on

12 hrs on

Off

12 hrs on

Off

These ever-changing schedules can be a good thing or a bad thing as far as flexibility goes, and your planning. It might make things easier in terms of planning your home life and picking days that work for you. 

However, do remember that depending on the staffing needs, as well as your seniority, you may not always get the shifts that you want. This can make it a bit hard to plan ahead for things such as vacations and other events. 

There is nothing easy, or standard about the working life of a Paramedic or an EMT when it comes to hours, regardless of where they work. 

Is there a ‘best’ schedule?

In common practice, EMTs will work around 12-24 hour shifts. Despite what you may think, a majority of EMTs will say that they prefer working a 24-hour shift with 2  day off in comparison to any other, simply because despite the long day, you have plenty of time afterwards to recover. 

A 24-hour shift is a serious commitment, however, and even though it is a popular option for employers and EMTs, it is not without its risks. 

There was a time when you could guarantee an EMT on a 24-hour shift would get brief rest periods on a shift, and they may even be able to sleep for a short while, in order to prevent them getting fatigued on the job. 

However, nowadays, there is such economic pressure on the emergency services to be as efficient as possible, that a 24-hour shift may actually be 24-hours of continuous non-stop work. 

Again, this does depend on the location you work in and the call volume of that agency. Despite the stress that this puts on EMTs, they are still expected to work professionally, politely, and productively even when they get no sleep. 

Many firefighter/ paramedics will like a 48/96 hour work schedule, it is considered a vast improvement on many of the other schedules. 

Are EMT hours flexible? 

There may, or may not be, some leniency in negotiating your shift patterns with your employer, and you may be able to switch shifts with a college here and there.

But EMT hours are not very flexible, and you are expected to remain at work throughout your shift and may be required to do overtime at any given moment. 

You may be able to trade shifts when needed, and you will get allowance for sick or vacation time, but remember this too varies. And when you are ‘on-call’, you must respond to the call and report for duty immediately. 

The health dangers of shift work

EMT and Paramedic work shifts can be bad for health, however, there are a number of factors that influence this. 

The exact understanding on how fatigue impacts people is still being discovered, but there is no doubt that with no sleep people get stressed and health impacts in the mind and body, which can in turn lead to ill-health. 

There is a call for a reevaluation of shift patterns in the industry to ensure that EMTs get an appropriate level of rest. In 1910 the average worker got 9 hours of sleep each night, now it is closer to 6.3! Not good! 

Hours by week and month

Paramedics and EMTs will typically work 36 to 56 hours per week, this does depend on staffing needs. 

The difference between these two work weeks (occasionally plus overtime), depends on the type of shifts you work and the amount of calls you run. This can mean you may work between 162 and 252 hours each month. 

In reality, it is common for paramedics to do even more than this, working over 2,880 hours each year and then over time too. 

With EMTs, employers will expect large amounts of flexibility from paramedics, who may be asked to be on call when they are not working and have shifts extended at any given moment. 

The truest answer to this is that there is no solid answer, EMTs and Paramedics work a variation of shifts, and it can differ depending on where you live, where you work, and the type of work you do, it can also be affected by the time of year and more.

If you want to go into emergency medical care, be ready for a sporadic but rewarding career.