Duties and responsibilities
An emergency medical dispatcher plays an important part in the ambulance service control team. They perform various tasks to ensure a prompt response to calls for the ambulance service. Their typical duties and responsibilities include:
- Handling initial calls for emergency and non-emergency situations
- Assessing the nature of calls and determining a proper response
- Logging call information, such as caller’s name, location, parties involved, nature of the call and any other pertinent details
- Using a two-way radio system to relay all information to paramedics
- Determining whether other responders (e.g., firefighters or police) are needed
- Answering queries from the public regarding non-emergency situations
Most medical dispatchers must have a high school diploma, with many states requiring dispatchers to have training and certification.
In addition, before getting hired, all candidates must pass a written exam and a typing test and sometimes candidates may need to pass a background check, lie detector , drug tests, and tests for hearing and vision.
Furthermore, certification and training requirements vary by state. The Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO International) provides a list of states requiring training and certification. Training is usually conducted in a classroom and on the job, and may be followed by a probationary period of about 1 year. Training will cover a wide variety of topics, such as local geography, agency protocols, and standard procedures. Dispatchers are also taught how to use specialized equipment, such as two-way radios and computer-aided dispatch software.
Skills and relevant work experience
Some jobs require a driver’s license, and experience using computers can be helpful. The ability to speak Spanish is also desirable in this occupation. As well as this, the following skills are a necessity for emergency medical dispatchers:
- Listening skills are key as dispatchers must listen carefully to collect relevant details
- Multitasking skills, as dispatchers will have to answer calls, collect vital information, coordinate responders, use mapping software and camera feeds, and assist callers all in a short space of time
- Communication skills, as dispatchers must be able to communicate the nature of an emergency effectively and coordinate the appropriate response
- Empathy is essential as dispatchers must be able to see things from other peoples perspective and be understanding of their needs
- Decision making skills are essential as dispatchers must be able to quickly determine the correct response
- Typing skills are essential as dispatchers type the details of calls into computers. Speed and accuracy is of the essence when responding to emergencies
Most dispatchers work full time. However, as emergency care is needed around the clock, they will most likely work shifts and will have to work antisocial hours, such as evenings and weekends.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual wage for police, fire, and ambulance dispatchers was $41,910 in 2019. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $27,190, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $64,950.
The employment of police, fire, and ambulance dispatchers is projected to grow 6 percent from 2018 to 2028, about as fast as the average for all occupations.This is due to the population growth meaning that the number of 9-1-1 calls is expected to increase and therefore more dispatchers are needed.
For those who can handle demanding schedules and who have strong communication and typing skills should have the best job prospects. Emergency medical dispatchers often progress to roles that involve leading a small team of dispatchers.