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Paramedics are often one of the first healthcare professionals on the scene of any accident or medical emergency. They are usually one of a two-person ambulance crew, with an emergency care assistant or ambulance technician to assist them. However, they might work on their own, using a motorbike, emergency response car or even a bicycle to reach their patients. With extra training, they could also become members of an air ambulance crew.
When they arrive at the scene, they will assess the patient's condition and take potentially life-saving decisions about any treatment needed before the patient is transferred to hospital. They then start giving the treatment, with the assistance of the emergency care assistant or ambulance technician.
Traditionally, staff joining the ambulance service could work their way up with experience and additional training from care assistant, through ambulance technician to paramedic. However, this route is no longer open to new entrants.
Anyone wishing to work as a paramedic will now need to either secure a student paramedic position with an ambulance service trust, or attend an approved full-time course in paramedic science at a university.
Most University courses require, as a minimum, that applicants hold 5 GCSEs at grade ‘C’ or above, including Maths and English, plus 2 A-Levels or the equivalent in a related subject (e.g. NVQ level 3 or BTEC National).
In order to drive an ambulance, whether emergency or non-emergency, you will need a full, manual driving licence. Ambulance services use vehicles of different gross weights and staff will be required to hold a driving licence with the appropriate classifications to enable them to drive ambulance service vehicles in that particular service.
Training comprises both theory and practical clinical experience, including several weeks in various hospital departments. Much of the training of paramedics is carried out under the supervision of senior doctors.
With further experience, you might take on one of the developing roles in the community such as an emergency care practitioner. Here you could be based in one of a number of different settings, such as a GP surgery, minor injuries unit or hospital accident and emergency department. You will usually need extra training and qualifications for this.
Salary ranges from £15,500 to £18,600 a year for a student up to £27,500 for a qualified paramedic.
emergency care practitioners and team leaders can earn up to £34,200. Managers earn considerably more.