From call handler to ambulance driver and paramedic, there are lots of rewarding jobs in the ambulance service. Here are five roles, what they involve, and how to get into them.
Patient transport service (PTS) drivers
The patient transport service drives elderly, disabled and vulnerable people to and from routine hospital admissions and other non-urgent healthcare appointments. Ambulance care assistants are responsible for taking care of patients on the journey and helping them board and disembark the vehicle. Although PTS staff do not respond to emergency calls, people using the service will be in poor health, so you will need to have life-saving skills in case of a medical emergency.
Each ambulance service sets its own requirements. Generally, you need a full UK, manual driving licence (some trusts require you to have a C1 category), excellent driving skills, the ability to read maps and knowledge of your local area. You also need to be physically fit in order to lift and carry patients. Some employers ask for four GCSEs (A-C) including maths and English, and a current first aid certificate.
Patient transport staff are usually trained on the job; you do not normally need to complete a course before applying. Training usually takes two to four weeks, and involves learning advanced driving skills, moving and lifting techniques, first aid, and resuscitation. Once you pass, you will be attached to an ambulance station and work under a trained mentor before being allowed to work unsupervised.
Call handlers / control assistants
Call handlers work on the front line of the emergency ambulance service answering 999 calls from the public and GPs. Based in a control room, you will take essential information about the patient’s condition and location, recording the details onto a computer system. This information is then passed to an emergency medical dispatcher and used to decide how best to respond to the situation.
Senior call handlers may talk people through emergency procedures, such as clearing an obstruction from someone’s windpipe, explaining resuscitation techniques or helping deliver a baby while the ambulance is on its way. Control assistants must be able to work quickly, calmly, and accurately under pressure, and get important information from people who are extremely anxious and distressed.
Some ambulance services combine the call handler role with that of emergency medical dispatcher.
Emergency medical dispatcher
Emergency medical dispatchers receive details of 999 calls collected by call handlers and use their training to decide the type of response needed, which could be an ambulance, rapid response car, motorcycle or paramedic helicopter. As well as sending the nearest ambulance to the scene, they ensure the emergency crew have as much information as possible to treat the patient when they arrive.
There are no set entry requirements to work as a call handler or emergency medical dispatcher, and each ambulance service has its own requirements. Most employers ask for GCSEs (A-C) in English, maths and science, excellent keyboard and computer skills and a typing qualification. An understanding of medical terminality, a current first aid certificate or experience as a call centre operator may help. New recruits receive on-the-job and classroom based training.
Paramedics work in both emergency and non-emergency situations. Working either on their own or with an assistant practitioner, they are often the first healthcare professional to arrive at the scene.
Paramedics deal with a range of situations, from minor wounds to life-threatening injuries. Using their clinical experience, they assess the patient and decide whether they should be treated immediately or transferred to hospital. In an emergency, paramedics provide life-saving treatment. Paramedics also work closely with medical staff in hospital emergency departments, briefing them on the patient’s condition on arrival.
To work as a paramedic in the NHS, you need to be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council. To join the register, you need to complete a qualification approved by the HCPC that includes clinical placements with an ambulance service and other healthcare providers. For this, you need a foundation degree, diploma of higher education (DipHE), or degree in paramedic science or paramedic emergency care. You may also be able to apply for a student paramedic post and train on the job while working as a student paramedic with an ambulance trust.
Emergency care practitioner / senior paramedic
Experienced paramedics can apply for the position of emergency care practitioner. In this role, you would give emergency and non-emergency care to patients in the community and local minor injuries units, working from a response car, GP surgery, minor injury unit, hospital emergency department.
Using advanced clinical skills, senior paramedics assess patients, order tests and scans if necessary, and provide immediate treatment if appropriate. Although most jobs are in the NHS, emergency care practitioners are also employed by the armed forces and private ambulance services.
To apply for a senior paramedic position, you usually need at least three years’ experience as a qualified paramedic. A degree, such as a BSc (Hons) in paramedic science, as well as additional training, is required.
To search for current vacancies within the NHS ambulance service visit: https://www.jobmedic.co.uk/jrp-ambulance-care-assistant
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