Becoming a paramedic.
Before you look at the academic qualification to become a paramedic it is important to look at yourself because the two main assets are being passionate about caring for people and having a calm and reassuring demeanour.
Being a paramedic isn’t all about drama and trauma, high-speed responses, it is about providing an immediate response to emergency medical calls on the 999 and 111 networks.
You may be the first person on the scene, or you be backing up a first aider or another healthcare professional, but generally, you will be the first senior healthcare professional on the scene.
The level of care you provide at the scene ranges from providing life-threatening interventions to treating minor illnesses and injuries.
You will need to assess a patient’s condition irrespective of the seriousness and it goes without saying; show compassion and patience.
Essential treatment which may need to provide includes:
• resuscitating and stabilising patients
• administration of medical gases
• using ECG, defibrillator and other high-tech medical equipment
• applying spinal and traction splints
• administering intravenous drips and drugs.
Emergencies you cover will be injuries, sudden illness at home or workplace, even dealing with trauma as a result of road and rail accidents, domestic and other criminal violence, terror attacks and major incidents, fires, water-related and many other incidents.
Working in a two-person ambulance is the most common workplace where you will work alongside the equivalent of an emergency medical technician or emergency/ambulance care assistant. However, it is likely that you may sooner or later work alone, using an emergency response car, or even a response bicycle.
There are also opportunities to become an air ambulance crew member, but this clearly requires additional specialised training.
The Role and Responsibilities
Whilst using high tech medical equipment may seem more brain than brawn, you will still need to undergo hard physical work from patient handling to resuscitation.
You will need to think on your feet and need to provide an immediate course of treatment at the scene or en route to a hospital.
You will carry out some surgical procedures such as intubation (insertion of a breathing tube) when necessary.
Making decisions such as whether admission to a hospital is necessary, even assessing the course of action to move a patient are all part of the paramedics’ role.
When on the scene, perhaps at a road traffic collision or major incident, you will need to liaise with colleagues from other emergency services to ensure the most appropriate level of response is provided.
Whilst at the scene you will be expected to deal with members of the public and family members who are present and perhaps communicate with them on the phone.
After the trauma and mayhem or basic treatment, you will need to clean and decontaminate the vehicle, as well as check equipment and disposables to maintain a state of operational readiness
Upon arrival at the hospital, you will be required to work closely with doctors and nurses in the relevant accident and emergency departments, handing over the patient and briefing medical individual or teams.
Administration, data input and paperwork is required to produce thorough patient reports and case notes and reports about the patient’s history, condition and treatment to relevant hospital staff.
As time goes by and your experience builds you will be called upon to mentor and supervise students and new staff.
If you feel you would like to embark upon a career as a paramedic, you must be registered with the Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC), so you will need to complete an HCPC-approved paramedic science qualification.
There are two routes to choose from:
• complete a university course at diploma, foundation degree or degree level (this is the main recommended route)
• apply for a position within an ambulance trust as a student paramedic and study while working.
For full details of all HCPC-approved paramedic science qualifications that are available on the HCPC register of approved education and training programmes click this link.
Your local NHS ambulance service trust may also have its own individual entry requirements for posts so contact the trust directly for any details.
You will need to undertake a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check in England and Wales, Access Northern Ireland or the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme in Scotland, as well as an occupational health assessment.
You may also be required to pass a fitness test and need a full UK manual driving licence with C1 (or provisional C1) status. This will certainly be required in the fullness of time.
Other than caring skills, you will need:
• strong team working skills to work with other crew and hospital staff
• the ability to work autonomously
• oral, written and listening communication skills for reporting conditions
• skills in problem-solving and critical thinking
• a calm and reassuring approach with the initiative and decision-making capability in pressured situations
• good general fitness to cope with lifting patients and equipment
• the ability to relate to people from a range of socio-economic backgrounds, races, religions and cultures
• excellent driving skills – most NHS ambulance trusts will require you to be able to drive an ambulance under emergency conditions.
Although you may have no immediate medical skills it is good to have some related care experience, this may include:
• a role or position in which you have dealt with the public
• experience in dealing with sick, disabled and/or elderly people
• first aid and medical-related certificates as evidence of your interest
• voluntary experience in organisations such as a CFR, St John Ambulance, St Andrew’s First Aid and British Red Cross
• experience in life-saving techniques, which you can gain by volunteering as a community first responder in association with local ambulance services
• office-based work in an ambulance service.
It is also useful to become a student member of the College of Paramedics. This will show your interest in, and commitment to, the profession and provide access to useful resources.
Joining the AoFAS academy is a low-cost method of gaining knowledge and theory qualifications as well as a range of diplomas that may help on your pathway to becoming a paramedic.
Whilst the AoFAS Academy does not provide formal accredited qualifications, it does confirm that the student is serious. and keen to study and learn so that they can hone their craft, gaining a vast wealth of knowledge. An attribute which demonstrates an invaluable transferable skill to any prospective employer and/or UCAS (The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service); this is a UK-based organisation whose main role is to operate the application process for British universities.