Paramedic: job description

Paramedics provide specialist care and treatment to patients who have been involved in accidents, emergencies or other crises.

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Paramedics need the ability to make swift decisions and stay calm.

What does a paramedic do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

A paramedic is usually the senior member of a two-person ambulance crew, supported by an emergency care assistant or technician. A paramedic is typically one of the first healthcare professionals to arrive at the scene of an emergency.

Typical duties of the job include:

  • driving and staffing ambulances and other emergency vehicles
  • responding to emergency 999 calls
  • assessing patients, providing emergency treatment and making diagnoses
  • monitoring and administering medication, pain relief and intravenous infusions
  • dressing wounds/injuries
  • using specialist equipment including ventilators and defibrillators
  • transporting patients to hospital and continuing to provide treatment while in transit
  • providing hospital staff with patient information including condition and treatment
  • helping provide patient care in hospitals and other medical facilities
  • communicating effectively with patients and their relatives/friends
  • teaching and training members of the public to use first aid techniques correctly

24-hour shift work (including weekends) is usually a standard requirement of the job.

Typical employers of paramedics

The NHS employs most paramedics, although there are also some vacancies with other organisations, including charities such as the St John Ambulance.

Jobs are advertised on the NHS jobs website, via ambulance service trusts and on the website of the College of Paramedics.

Qualifications and training required

You need to be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) to work as a paramedic. You need to have a qualification in paramedic science approved by the HCPC in order to register. The HCPC lists approved qualifications on its website.

From 1 September 2021, only completing a degree-level (or higher) programme will lead a student to be eligible to join the register on HCPC. This means certificate, diploma and foundation degree level programmes will no longer be routes into this career. However, if you’re enrolled on a programme approved before this change, you should still be able to register. For more information, check the information on the HCPC website.

There are different routes to qualifying as a paramedic. You can take a job as a student paramedic and study while you work. Alternatively, you can take an approved qualification in paramedic science and then apply to ambulance services. Only a few ambulance trusts offer student paramedic schemes now; they usually run twice a year and competition for places is likely to be high. Another possible route is to apply for a degree apprenticeship in paramedic science. You can search for degree apprenticeship positions on the NHS jobs website, or use the government's apprenticeship search page on GOV.UK.

Key skills for paramedics

  • Strong communication skills
  • Empathy and care for others
  • The ability to make swift decisions and stay calm under pressure
  • A good level of physical fitness
  • Navigational and driving skills
  • Resilience
  • Stamina
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