The Hidden Costs of EMT-Basic

I wanted to tell you about all the money I’ve been spending that wasn’t mentioned when I signed up for my EMT-B course. It wasn’t really completely hidden, but it is starting to take me by surprise. Plus if you started some of this stuff earlier it would be cheaper.

CPR for Health Care Providers

One of the things you have to have before they will send you out for your clinical is your CPR card. I looked around locally and it was going to cost about $40 for a 2 hour course. I looked online and found the American Health Care Academy offering it for $20. I contacted my clinical supervisor and she said she didn’t care where I got it as long as I got the card. This isn’t the AHA’s place, so you might want to check before investing in it. I think she didn’t really care because we’ll be doing CPR on dummies in class anyway. You need to take an AHA approved CPR class, and this one isn’t one. I had to retake CPR as a result. The cost was $40.

Immunizations

Good. Fast. Cheap. Pick Two.

Obviously you always want good with a vaccine that can save your liver, or your life, so that leaves fast or cheap. If you have time, you can go to the county health office and get most of the shots for like $5. If you have shot records from when you were a kid, you can also bring those in.

My required shots were Measles Mumps Rubella(MMR), a TB test, Diptheria-Tetanus-Pertussis, Chicken Pox and Hepatitis B.

Since I had no records I needed titers – tests to see if you have the antibodies for something you are now immune to. But remember the MMR shot – which is one shot – is 3 titers. Since 2000 all children are getting Hepatitis B shots, but back when I was a kid they didn’t do that. I got the test anyway.

The titers were $224. I was immune to MMR and Chicken Pox, but not HepB.

Here’s where I got bit in the butt. I put off getting my shots until the beginning of class thinking I might learn something in class that would effect how I got them. HepB normally takes 6 months to get. It is 3 shots and they are give at 1 month and them 6 months later. But we have to show we’ve got all our shots before we can start clinicals and the deadline is 2 weeks after the start of class.

I’m SOL.

Luckily the CDC does allow an accelerated schedule – I think mostly intended for travelers who need to go out of the country fast. That schedule is day 0, 7, 21-30. I found a place that would do it in 4-6 weeks over the phone. When I got there I was able to talk them down to 4. Got shot one today, will get shot 2 in 7 days, and the last shot 2 weeks after that.

Still too late for my paperwork deadline, but my clinical supervisor is being cool and said if I turn everything else I can wait till after I get the last shot to start my rotations. BUT I won’t get to pick my schedule, I’ll have to take whatever is available even if I’m suppose to be at work. Lucky for me my boss if pretty loose on missing work.

Got the TB test – which I have to go back in 2 days to check – and the Tetnus at the same time as the first Hep B shot.

That bill was $296. Each Hep B shot is $140.

Equipment

They say I must have these three things:
Pen and Paper
Wristwatch
Stethoscope
Blood Pressure Cuff

Which agrees with Kelly’s minimum. Especially because one teacher said you don’t really need the BP cuff. I’ll probably still get one so I can practice on my friends and family. I already have a pen or two and a watch that shows the seconds.

But after reading Kelly’s Essential Gear post I need a new watch. Looking for metal or plastic, water proof and with a glow in the dark second hand. But that is surprisingly cheap if you aren’t worried about impressing the ladies. Under $20.

One teacher said spend $15-$20 on a stethoscope. Referencing Kelly’s post I’m looking at the one he carries, DRG Puretone Traditional Ti-Lite Stethoscope so $150.00

BP cuffs range from $13-$50 for manual versions.

Other suggested gear:
Goggles, penlight, trauma shears.
I’ve got some googles I use when shooting and the completely cover my eyes, so I’ll wear those. I already carry a small flashlight.

As a treat to myself I’ll get the swiss army knife of trauma shears Kelly suggested for around $15 with shipping.

Uniforms

We have to wear a specific uniform for doing our rotations. Blue shirt with a Lone Star College EMS patch ($4.95), a navy blue t-shirt underneath, blue or black EMT pants, black boots. Looking online the pants run around $30, the shirt $20, boots from $50-$250. I may have a blue T-shirt.

So around another $150.

Background Check

I have to pay for and get a background check as well. $45. If you have a felony on your record you cannot do clinicals. Which means you can’t be an EMT. I’m a CHL holder which means I’m squeaky clean.

Here’s the costs I know about:

Immunizations $800
CPR $20
Uniforms $250
Equipment $200
Background Check $45
Total $1315

Ouch!

Now you could probably find this stuff cheaper if you weren’t rushing to get stuff done. And I’m not trying to go the cheapest with everything. But still there are going to be costs they don’t mention when you are signing up at school.

  • hilinda

    My expenses were totally different. I don’t know how much is different state laws, or what, but I didn’t have the same requirements.
    For one thing, being a member of a fire department already, most immunizations are covered for free. HepB and the TB test, for sure. And HepB isn’t required here- you can sign a waver.
    Also CPR was included in my EMT-B class. And no uniforms required. And no background check, at least not that I was aware of.
    What was it AD was saying about the EMS system not being the same in different places? It’s really not.
    Definitely a good idea to ask about any requirements when you sign up for a class!
    My major expenses were books and travel to class (45 minutes away, so not a big deal).
    I eventually chose to buy myself some stuff, but it wasn’t required and most wasn’t expensive. I got some trauma sheers that can cut through turnout gear, and a cheap K-Mart watch with a stretchy band so it can fit over my gear on MVAs when necessary. EMS through a fire department has some differences from EMS on an ambulance.

  • Ron

    CPR is a weird one because we are going to learn it in class, but we have to have the card when we fill out our paperwork for the hospitals.

    I have heard other mention getting their immunizations from their fire department as well. I’d have the people in my class are from fire departments.

  • Cass

    Oh just wait…I just finished my Basic and start my Medic in August. Not only the costs that you mentioned (plus gloves, face mask, etc) but there are also the forms you have to fill out on all of your clinicals and you’ll need copies and a lot of them. And we also had the option to take a few advanced CE classes. Those are not cheap and neither are the books for them.

    But; with all the expenses and everything….I still wouldn’t have passes up the opportunity to do this work.

  • CC

    Wow! $800 for immunizations! I’m a med student, but in the Netherlands, the school/university pays for the immunizations if they’re needed… I got my three HepB shots for free.

  • John

    I found a great new watch on Amazon. It’s a Casio “Ana-Digi” watch. They have a few models, the one I got was about $25.00. It’s great because it’s glow in the dark, has a digital second hand, stopwatch, countdown and my FAVORITE feature: it displays the digital time as well so you can have it set to military time. It might sound dumb, but it always takes me a second to figure out what time it is in military so this is definitely a help.

    Casio Men’s AQ164W-7AV Ana-Digi Sport Watch

  • Ron

    John great suggestion on the watch. Is the second hand glow in the dark? I looked at a few watches with glow in the dark hands, but often the second hand is a completely different color.

  • John

    Yes sir. The watch hands are glow in the dark, but are also a light metallic color which is nice because it’s really visible in sunlight and in darkness. The entire watch is backlit too which makes it useful and the digital second hand is nice because it reduces the amount of moving parts when it inevitably gets knocked around, yet still makes checking pulse possible.

  • Ron

    You sold me. I just ordered it.

  • John

    Glad I could be of help. When I was in the EMT class, I ordered this ridiculously overpriced watch that I ended up losing. The medics I worked with told me to keep it simple and I’ve been happy so far. Best of luck 🙂

  • NYEMT

    Longtime AD reader, 17-year FF/EMT and new Podcast listener here – nice job so far, BTW. 🙂

    I’ve had good results with any watch from the Timex Expedition collection. They’re durable (stainless steel), waterproof, and have (as John’s does) both a digital display and luminous hands. They’re also Indiglo watches, which is the best backlight I’ve ever seen. They’re not overpriced, either – I’ve had five or six in the last 20 years, and never spent more than $35 or so. I do make it a point to swap the leather or cloth bands they come with for expandable stainless steel bands. Like AD pointed out, you want to be able to sterilize the band from time to time.

    Good Luck!

  • Christine Springfield

    Agree on the watches entirely! I’ve been using Timex Indiglo for many, many years and love them. Just bought a new Timex Men’s Expedition from Wally World for $30. I am female, but like the bigger watch face for readability… I figure it will be a huge pain to try to get out my reading glasses to take a pulse.

    Great job on the blog/podcasts!

  • Josh

    Thats true they dont mention that u need all this equipment.

  • Smith_aeronita

    i will be starting pharmacy technician class on june 21 and need to have all three heb b series where can you tell me i can go and getthem 

  • Smith it depends on where you live. I want to a local urgent care to
    get mine here in Houston. And know you pay a premium to do it fast.

    Ron

  • Hoi-Ming Ng

    This is actually the first post I found of your blog from Googling: “EMT-B costs”.

    Thanks for the heads up on immunizations. If you hadn’t reminded me I wouldn’t have had time to get all my medical records together for registration. Fortunately, I’m young enough that all my relevant shot record paperwork is recent enough to be easily accessible.