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How Ambulances Work

Who's in the Ambulance Crew?

ambulance crew
Ambulance crews could consist of EMTs, paramedics and/or nurses. Zero Creatives/Getty Images

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Ground ambulances generally are staffed by at least two EMS workers, both of whom are trained to drive the vehicle. Driving is a vital skill for ambulance crews, whose members usually take turns behind the wheel. They receive special training to enable them to get to the scene of an emergency safely, as well as quickly.

Defensive driving skills are crucial. "We have to be in the mindset that people don't necessarily see or hear us, despite the lights and the sirens," Buchle explains. "Cars are built to be insulated from road sounds, and distracted drivers are probably the worst thing we have to deal with.

So, who are the people onboard the ambulance? They are usually EMTs, but sometimes paramedics as well.

Emergency medical technicians (EMTs), spend six months in school to learn basic life support measures. Paramedics, in contrast, typically undergo two years of training, and have more advanced emergency care skills, says Buchle.

Critical care nurses are often a part of air ambulance crews. Their advanced skills can be important for keeping gravely injured trauma patients alive as they're being transported from smaller hospitals to big trauma centers for care and surgery. Some helicopter teams may include a physician as well.

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