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Ambulance service: career area

Ambulance service: career area

In a career as a paramedic or emergency care assistant you'll work on the front line of the NHS.

Responding to 999 calls is only part of the total workload of a typical ambulance service. They are also involved in non-emergency work such as the patient transport service.

A typical emergency ambulance crew will include a paramedic and an emergency care assistant. The role of a paramedic is to take the lead in dealing with accidents and emergencies. They use a number of techniques such as administering drug treatments and intravenous injections in order to stabilise a patient for movement to hospital. Emergency care assistants work alongside paramedics, often in patient transport for non-urgent cases, and help give immediate aid in accident and emergency situations.

Promotion can be to supervisory and management roles and there are also opportunities in some areas for specialist work with motorcycle, car or air ambulance units. Paramedics can also progress to ambulance officer and more senior management posts, or they can elect to move into posts in the control centres or training schools. Other roles can be found in HR, finance, administration, clinical standards and quality control.

Paramedics can undertake extended training to become emergency care practitioners or senior paramedics. This enables them to treat minor injuries and illnesses and enhances their assessment and examination skills. Senior paramedics can be based at GP surgeries, minor injury units or hospital emergency departments and can be involved in assessing patients with long-term conditions at home.

The skills you need for a career in the ambulance service

  • Quick thinking and decisiveness
  • Ability to provide a calm environment
  • Communication skills
  • Ability to work as a team in high-stress situations.

Ambulance service recruitment

Most paramedics in England and Wales are employed by local ambulance service NHS trusts. In Northern Ireland they are employed by the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service Health and Social Care (HSC) Trust. In Scotland they are recruited by the Scottish Ambulance Service, which provides a service across five regions coordinated by three ambulance control centres. Paramedics are also employed in the armed forces and on oil and gas rigs so there are opportunities to work overseas.

Various universities offer a range of paramedical qualifications at foundation degree, diploma and BSc honours degree level, approved by the Health and Care Professions Council. Courses tend to be flexible and modular and there are full-time and part-time options. After graduating you can join an ambulance service as a paramedic. Alternatively, you may be able to join an ambulance service as a student paramedic and train on the job. You'll need to find out about entry requirements and the availability of student paramedic positions by getting in touch with the ambulance trust you wish to work for.