If you’re a laid-back type who wants to wear flip-flops to work every day, you might want to reconsider your wardrobe if your dream is to become a medic who ultimately wears a pretty standard paramedic uniform. In the early days of the profession, restrictions on clothing were casual (although flip-flops never got a passing grade), but as the field evolved, it became apparent that clothing needed to meet certain requirements. Because a paramedic is a medical professional, he or she needs to show up looking clean, neat, and ready for the rigors of a job that can be quite intense and even chaotic.
- And please note: if you’re ready to take the NREMT exam and are serious about passing the test, you can find online EMT and Paramedic practice tests that will try to help you pass the examination on your first attempt.
Paramedic attire needs to be comfortable enough to allow ease of movement. The uniform needs to be durable and easy to clean. After all, paramedics run into more than their fair share of bodily fluids in the course of their work schedule. So bid those flip-flops good-bye, and introduce yourself to the uniform most worn by paid paramedics.
There is no single standard paramedic clothing, although paramedics do adopt a uniform style of dress within their unit. Paramedics and EMTs in one city might be issued a long and short sleeved white dress shirt, a long and short sleeved duty shirt in a dark color, black pants, a dark polo shirt, a dark fleece pullover sweater, steel-toed boots, and a winter coat. Another service may wear short-sleeved, white, button-down shirts with clip-on ties, black or navy pants, and black shoes or boots.
Interestingly, despite the absence of an instantly recognizable uniform that’s comparable to what police officers or firefighters wear, some paramedic schools do require their students to wear a uniform in the classroom, in order to increase their sense of professionalism as they learn their skills.
Who Pays for the Paramedic’s Uniform?
Paramedic clothing varies according to the requirements of the medical service which has hired them. Some paramedics have a policy that reimburses them for the required clothing, as long as the purchases fall within the permitted amount, such as a $150 allowance for boots. Typically, boots must have a steel or safety toe, and can range in price from $125-$240.
Pants, on the other hand, can run from $35-$80.
The clothing isn’t cheap, but it’s designed to hold up under the demands of the job.
Some employers issue a clothing allowance for their paramedics, which helps provide the required wardrobe. But if that’s not the case, this is one of the times when the IRS can be your friend.
This is if 1) the paramedic pays for his or her own uniform, 2) is not reimbursed by the employer, 3) and the uniform is for work use only, the cost can be tax deductible if a paramedic itemizes these deductions when filing their income tax returns.
While stethoscopes and name badges may not, strictly speaking, count as clothing, it’s useful to know that standard paramedic tools and supplies that must be purchased in order to meet the needs of the job are also tax deductible. This includes blood pressure cuffs, flashlights, and more.
Paramedic Shirts and Styles
The paramedic shirt may be a tee-shirt, a button-down white shirt, or a polo shirt. Green is often a favorite choice of color because it’s dark enough to hide stains that are likely to show up in living color on a lighter color of shirt. The only constant is that, regardless of the style, the shirt will have space for the paramedic’s name, a logo, and a means of identifying the paramedic unit or service.
Paramedic Pants to Wear on the Job
In the early days of the profession, jumpsuits were typical garb, and some units still wear them for the weekend or nighttime shift, so that less time is spent in dressing to answer a call. But, as time went by, the standard paramedic jumpsuit uniform gave way to pants and shirts.
Sweatshirts may be worn in colder weather. Paramedic pants are often dark—navy or blue is a favorite choice. The EMT cargo pants are a particular favorite, but pockets in general are often regarded as a necessity for carrying equipment and other items that are needed in order to perform the various functions of the job.
Some paramedics favor a Battle Dress Uniform or BDUs for the professional look and the fit. But a cautionary note: the sizes run small, so if ordering BDUs, order a size larger. Another note to remember is that the military-style BDUs have drawstrings on the bottom. They’re intended to be tucked inside military-style boots, which may not be what the paramedic appearance requires.
Female paramedics often encounter problems when shopping for pants that fit comfortably while still presenting a professional appearance. One solution is the Dickie’s Women’s EMT Pants. Reviews of these pants praise the inside waist band that helps to keep the paramedic shirt tucked in. The pants are stylish as well. As with the BDUs, the advice is to buy a size larger, as they tend to run small.
A well-stocked resource for paramedic attire is Gall’s, which has been in the business of outfitting police officers, firefighters, and paramedics for 45 years, and offers a wide range of paramedic clothing items in popular brands, including 5.11 Tactical.
In addition to clothing, Galls sells badges, nametags, shoes, boots, gloves, and equipment. And for the paramedic with a wish list, Gall’s offers gift certificates, too.
Uniform Quick Tips
Probably not a lot of professions recommend using Scotchgard for uniforms, but paramedics aren’t just any profession, and the stress of the job can lead to stress on the clothes.
Emergency rescues in the summer heat don’t always come equipped with air conditioning. Nonetheless, modern medic uniforms need to meet professional standards. And what might surprise you is that there are a few old-fashioned ways to do this.
1) Ironing board
Paramedics are used to sirens, split-second decision-making and on-the-spot medical analysis, but they may also need to get accustomed to something else: the ironing board. That’s right; a little bit of starch on paramedic shirts can help to make a shirt resistant to wrinkles. There’s no need to overdo it, though; too much starch will indeed reduce wrinkles, but the shirt that can stand on its own won’t be very comfortable to wear.
If your paramedic unit wears baseball caps, an easy way to clean them is to use the top rack of the dishwasher. This does the job better than hand washing, but isn’t as damaging as a washing machine might be.
3) Mop & Glo
Boots take a beating, but polishing them once a month with a shoeshine kit that you can find at any department or shoe store helps to keep the shine. One trick if you need boots that look their best at a moment’s notice is to wipe Mop & Glo on them with a cloth. This shouldn’t be done regularly, as it will cause the leather of the boot to crack.
An undershirt also helps to keep perspiration from showing up on the outside of your shirt.
5) Remember that Scotchgard?
If you spray it on the inside underarm of your medic shirt, it’ll prevent sweat from soaking through.
These are all easy tips that can keep your uniform clean, and make sure that, no matter how wild your day, you will always look your best. The paramedic uniform, whatever form it takes, is an integral part of your identity: it has to be able to stand up to a lot of pressure, it has to be able to support a lot of physical activity, and it has to last.
Always remember that our paramedic school page provides you with a list of accredited programs you can apply to.