What is the work like?
Ambulance paramedics deal with medical emergencies, as well as complex non-emergency hospital admissions,
discharges and transfers. They work as part of a rapid response unit, usually with support from an ambulance technician.
As an ambulance paramedic you could be dealing with all kinds of emergencies, ranging from minor injuries
to serious casualties in a major road or rail accident. Your primary goal would be to meet people's immediate needs for care
As an ambulance paramedic you would:
- assess a patient's condition
- decide on the appropriate course of action based on clinical need
- make quick decisions about moving the patient
- use advanced life support techniques, such as electric shocks (defibrillation) to resuscitate patients
- carry out certain surgical procedures, such as intubation (inserting a test tube into the throat)
- use advanced airway devices to keep the airway open
- use intra-venous fluid therapy and drug therapy
- administer medicines and giving injections
- dress wounds and applying splints.
You would also be responsible for checking the efficiency of the vehicle and on-board equipment. Accurate
record keeping is also an essential part of the job.
The emergency ambulance service is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You would be trained
in advanced driving skills and work on traditional ambulances and other rapid response units including cars and motorcycles.
You could also work as part of a helicopter ambulance crew.
What qualifications and experience will employers look for?
To work as a paramedic you must be registered with the Health Professions Council (HPC). To apply for
enrolment on the register you need to complete an approved qualification and period of clinical training with an ambulance
service. The HPC holds details of approved training providers (see Further Information).
There are two routes leading to registration as a paramedic.
Higher education, direct-entry route
Eleven universities offer HPC approved courses
leading to a foundation degree, Diploma of Higher Education (DipHE) or degree in paramedic science (including clinical practice).
Entry requirements will vary depending on the qualification you wish to achieve, but will usually include:
- five GCSEs (A-C) in English, maths and science
- between one and three A levels including a life science or natural science.
Please check with universities for exact entry details because alternatives, such as a relevant Access
to Higher Education qualification, may also be accepted.
Traditional work-based route
This route involves joining the ambulance service
as an ambulance care assistant (some services may allow entry at technician level). When you have gained experience
and promotion to ambulance technician, you may be able to apply through open competition for a place on paramedic training
(leading to the Institute of Health Care Development qualification).
This option is becoming increasingly difficult to find as ambulance services throughout the UK are
carrying out a major work force review. The role of ambulance technician will be phased out during 2007 and 2008, as the new
emergency care assistant role is introduced. Many services are now prefering to recruit paramedics through the higher education
route. You should contact your local ambulance service for further advice (the Ambulance Service Association has a list on
You will need to meet some basic conditions set by the ambulance
service, whichever route you choose. You will need:
- to be at least age 18 (21 in some services)
- a good general standard of education
- the ability to pass a series of recruitment tests
- to have a medical test, and show you are physically able to do the job.
Driving - you will also need a full manual driving licence for at least one year. If you passed
your driving test after 1996, you will need an extra driving qualification (known as C1 and D1) which will allow you to drive
passenger carrying, medium sized vehicles over 3.5 tonnes. Some ambulance services may support you through this extra driving
qualification, however, this is not standard practice.
All ambulance services conduct a CRB police check.
What further training and development can I do?
Higher education route
If you choose to become a paramedic in this way, your training
will usually involve:
- a combination of technical and work-related tasks
- attending university full-time during the first year, and one day a week for the following two or
- working as an ambulance technician earning a salary.
Part-time programmes take between two and five years to complete and are usually only open to practising
paramedics who wish to achieve a qualification.
To become a registered paramedic through this route, you will
usually need at least one year's experience as a fully qualified ambulance technician. You can then apply, through open competition,
for paramedic training. Once accepted you will follow an intensive course lasting 10-12 weeks, which leads to the Institute
of Health Care Development (IHCD) qualification.
On the course you will gain experience in a range of hospital departments, including the operating
theatre, coronary care unit, and accident and emergency. You will also study areas such as anatomy, physiology, pharmacology
and advanced patient assessment. When you pass all the assessments, you qualify as a paramedic and can apply for registration
with the HPC.
Where can I go for more information?
Tel: 08000 150850
PO Box 376
Tel: 0845 606 0655
184 Kennington Park Road
Tel: 020 7582 0866
28 Wilfred Street
Tel: 01332 746 356
91 Waterloo Road
Tel: 020 7928 9620