- Ambulance paramedics provide a wide range of emergency medical assistance, often dealing with a dozen different cases a day
- Duties can involve treating minor and major wounds, giving injections, and transporting patients to hospital
- Most paramedics get into the job through a higher education course; a number of UK universities offer degrees or foundation degrees in paramedical science
- Most courses involve three years full-time study, with classroom training complemented by on-the-job experience
- Once you have a relevant qualification, you will need to register with the Health Professionals Council (HPC) before you can start working
- If youre still training, you can expect to earn around £16,000 to £18,000 a year, though with experience this can rise to £28,000 a year
- Most paramedics are employed by the NHS, though you could also find work in the armed forces or with a private ambulance operator
What Do Ambulance Paramedics Do?
Ambulance paramedics provide emergency medical assistance, often at the scene of accidents. In this job, no two days are ever likely to be the same, though the work will almost always be demanding and stressful yet highly-rewarding. Some of your daily tasks as an ambulance paramedic could include:
- Treating everything from minor wounds to major wounds, even carrying out specialist surgical procedures
- Working with the very latest in emergency medical technology
- Giving medicines and injections
- Transporting patients to hospital, often at high speed
- Keeping accurate records of your working day
- Carrying out regular checks of all medical equipment
Skills and Qualifications
There are several routes you can take to become an ambulance paramedic, though be warned, all of them are tough are require several years of training and dedication.
Most paramedics embark on their chosen careers through a relevant higher education course. This could be a foundation degree, a full degree or a diploma of higher education (DipHE). To really stand out from the crowd, however, its best to go for a full degree in a relevant subject such as paramedic science or paramedic emergency care. A number of UK universities offer such courses, including:
- University of Surrey, Paramedic Science BSc (Hons): A three-year course designed to give a full overview of the profession and the experience you need to start working as a paramedic. On-the-job training by working NHS staff complements classroom learning
- Kingston University London, Paramedic Science FdSC: A two-years, full-time course with a strong clinical focus throughout and offering the chance to work alongside specialist professionals from the start
- Sheffield Hallam University, Paramedic Practice BSc (Hons): This full-time course is designed to offer students the expertise, practical skills and experience needed to become qualified paramedics
Once you have a relevant qualification, you will be eligible to apply for registration with the Health Professionals Council (HPC). Only when you are registered with the HPC will you be allowed to start working as a paramedic without any direct supervision.
Alternatively, you could try and get a place on the student paramedic courses offered by some NHS Trusts. Getting a place on a student scheme is tough since competition is fierce. To stand a good chance, then, you not only need good academic qualifications, including strong GCSEs and A-Levels, but you will also need to show a keen desire to work as a paramedic. As such, relevant experience such as volunteering with the St John Ambulance could help you stand out from the crowd.
Whichever way you train, you will also be required to have a full, clean driving licence and need to pass several medical and background checks.
Training and Career Development
Once you have successfully registered with the Health Professionals Council and started work as a paramedic, there are a number of ways you can improve your career prospects.
For starters, you will be expected to take and pass a four-week course on emergency driving. Moving forward, you will be required to take regular tests on driving and other skills and to take refresher courses if necessary.
Alongside regular refresher tests and courses, you can enhance your career prospects by undertaking one of the many courses offered by the College of Paramedics. Visit the Colleges website (https://www.collegeofparamedics.co.uk/home/) to learn more about the specialist courses on offer.
Pay and Benefits
For such a skilled and demanding job, pay levels for student paramedics are relatively low. So, if youre still training, you can expect to earn around £16,000 to £18,000 a year, though some NHS Trusts may pay a little more.
Once you are fully-qualified, your annual salary can rise to as much as £28,000, with higher pay on offer if you progress to a team leader position. Meanwhile, area managers can earn around £40,000 a year, particularly those working in London and the south-east of England.
However, few people choose to work as a paramedic for the pay. Rather, other benefits are just as appealing, if not more so. These can include being able to help others on a daily basis, the challenging and rewarding nature of the work plus the career opportunities open to you if you excel at the job.
Being a paramedic is not for everyone. In this line of work, you will almost inevitably experience difficult and upsetting situations on a weekly, of not daily basis. Additionally, you will need to deal with people under the influence of alcohol or drugs, potentially making the job even tougher.
One other potential downside is the fact that this is as far from a nine-to-five job as its possible to get. You will be required to work some nights, weekends and Bank holidays, though shifts are usually fixed weeks in advance.
Most ambulance paramedics are employed by the NHS, so you should start by looking for jobs with you local NHS Trust. The dedicated NHS Jobs website (http://www.jobs.nhs.uk/) is the best place to look for new openings. This is updated on a regular basis and lets you search for jobs by location as well as according to how much experience you have.
Alternatively, ambulance paramedics are employed by private healthcare companies as well as by the armed forces. Our website is a good place to look for work with private ambulance providers, simply use our jobsearch at the top of the page and check out the vacancies listed to find out more about whats on offer.
The online Paramedic Resource Centre (http://www.paramedic-resource-centre.com/) is a useful place to look for advice on getting started in the profession