Careers in the ambulance service - Caring, compassionate, committed Make a difference with a career in health - NHS Health Careers

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Careers in the ambulance service - Caring, compassionate, committed Make a difference with a career in health - NHS Health Careers
Careers in the
 ambulance service
Caring, compassionate, committed
Make a difference with a career in health
Careers in the ambulance service - Caring, compassionate, committed Make a difference with a career in health - NHS Health Careers

A career for you                                    NHS values and the 6Cs
                                                    of compassionate care
There are more than 350 roles in health, and        To apply for any job or apprenticeship in the
many of them are part of a wider team which         NHS or in an organisation that provides NHS
works alongside other health professionals          services, or for a course with clinical
for the benefit of patients and the public.         placements in the NHS, you’ll need to show
As well as the NHS itself, many large and           how you think the values of the NHS
smaller organisations provide healthcare            Constitution would apply in your
and work to prevent ill health in the UK.           everyday work.
These include public and private sector
organisations, community interest companies,        The NHS Constitution values are:
social enterprises and charities, and you could
work for the NHS or any one of these other              Working together for patients
organisations in a health role.                         Respect and dignity
                                                        Commitment to quality of care
Some roles give you direct contact with                 Compassion
patients, while in others you are part of a vast        Improving lives
support network vital to delivering healthcare          Everyone counts
and preventing ill health, and good team-
working is essential. Some jobs are in hospitals,   These values may also be promoted
others are based in the community: increasingly,    as the 6Cs of compassionate care, as
health and social care services are integrated      part of Leading Change, Adding Value.
or co-ordinated in order to provide a seamless      The 6Cs are:
service for people with a range of needs.
We actively recruit people of all ages,                 Compassion
backgrounds and levels of experience,                   Competence
including people who have worked in other               Communication
sectors or who bring life experience from               Courage
outside the world of work. This helps us to             Commitment
understand the different needs of patients,
families and carers, and to provide the best
possible service every day.
                                                       Find out more about the NHS Constitution
                                                       and the 6Cs
                                                               xCs at:


Careers in the ambulance service - Caring, compassionate, committed Make a difference with a career in health - NHS Health Careers
  Your career in the ambulance service .................................... 4

  Frequently asked questions (FAQs) ....................................... 5

  Which role is right for you? ................................................... 6

  Ambulance service roles at a glance ..................................... 8

         i        Ambulance care assistant/Patient Transport Service driver .....                           8
         ii       Call handler/control assistant ................................................           9
         iii      Clinical assessment service roles.............................................            9
         iv       Emergency care assistant ......................................................           9
         v        Emergency medical dispatcher ..............................................              10
         vi       Emergency medical technician ..............................................              10
         vii      Paramedic ............................................................................   10
         viii     Patient Transport Service controller .......................................             11
         ix       Roles for experienced paramedics..........................................               11
         x        Other roles in the ambulance service .....................................               12

  Real-life stories ........................................................................ 14

  Getting started in the ambulance service ............................. 20

  Next steps and progressing your career ............................... 24

  Benefits of working in the NHS ............................................. 27

  Example career routes ............................................................ 29

                                                                                      Careers in the ambulance service   3
Careers in the ambulance service - Caring, compassionate, committed Make a difference with a career in health - NHS Health Careers
Your career in
the ambulance service
In this booklet you’ll learn about the exciting range of opportunities that today’s NHS
ambulance services have to offer. Healthcare is changing rapidly in response to modern
needs, and urgent and emergency care is now one of the key developing areas. This is
set to continue, bringing with it new roles.

            The ambulance service is not just about           ambulance service is right for you. It offers
            responding to a 999 call with an emergency        a flexible working environment, excellent
            ambulance crew. A range of clinical roles         benefits and a wealth of opportunities to
            and specialties are available that provide        develop your career.
            urgent and emergency care to patients over
            the phone as well as in community settings.
            There are teams of people who coordinate                  For more information about
            calls received and ensure the right response is           working in the ambulance
            provided. In addition, you could work in the              service, visit
            non-emergency Patient Transport Service that    
            is very much valued by communities, or the                ambulance
            NHS 111 service for urgent medical concerns.
                                                                      If you have any questions,
            Whatever your academic background,                        you can call our helpline on
            preferences and interests, if you would                   0345 60 60 655 or email
            like to help others in a role where the job     
            satisfaction doesn’t get much higher, the

4   Careers in the ambulance service
Careers in the ambulance service - Caring, compassionate, committed Make a difference with a career in health - NHS Health Careers
Who works in the ambulance                               Where can I train as an emergency
service team?                                            care assistant or for a role in the
                                                         Patient Transport Service?
Ambulance service team roles include:
• a mbulance care assistant/                            You will usually be trained while you are working
  Patient Transport Service (PTS) driver                 in the ambulance service – you would not normally
• e mergency medical technician                         do a course before applying for a job, but you
• emergency care assistant                               should always check the person specification for
• emergency medical dispatcher/call handler              the vacancy you’re applying for. You can search for
• PTS call handler                                       vacancies on the NHS Jobs website.
• paramedic, including roles for more experienced
   paramedics (see page 11)                              I want a role maintaining ambulance
                                                         vehicles. Which one is this?
How do I train to be a paramedic?
                                                         The NHS employs motor vehicle mechanics and
There are two ways to train as a paramedic – an          technicians to check and maintain its fleet of vehicles.
approved full-time university course in paramedic        Staff are also employed to check that vehicles are
science at degree or diploma of higher education         stocked with necessary equipment and medical
level, or training that combines working as a student    supplies. Occasionally, there are apprenticeships in
paramedic with an ambulance trust and study at           motor vehicle maintenance with ambulance service
university (some ambulance service trusts offer this     trusts. Visit and
route through a degree apprenticeship). Visit our        apply-apprenticeship for vacancies
paramedic web page or ask your local ambulance
NHS trust for details. You can also search for           Do all ambulance service staff deal
approved university courses using our course finder      with emergencies?
                                                         No, ambulance service staff may work for the
Other routes to becoming a paramedic may be              emergency 999 service, the non-emergency Patient
available, depending on local ambulance service          Transport Service (PTS) or the NHS 111 urgent
recruitment policies, so it’s important to check out     healthcare (but not emergency) service.
what your local ambulance service requirements
are. Visit the main NHS website to get their
contact details:

Is there financial help to support me
while I’m training to be a paramedic?

You will not usually receive financial support from
the NHS but you should check with the university
you’re applying to. Those training through the
student paramedic route will usually be salaried while
studying on a part-time basis. Use our course finder
to search for courses in paramedic science:

                                                                             Careers in the ambulance service   5
Careers in the ambulance service - Caring, compassionate, committed Make a difference with a career in health - NHS Health Careers
Which role is right for you?
NHS ambulance services play a crucial frontline role in delivering urgent and emergency
healthcare. The priority is no longer getting patients to hospital as fast as possible;
ambulance clinicians deliver mobile treatment services to provide care in home or
community settings, or give advice over the phone. They work alongside other
professionals to provide integrated health and social care.

            When a 999 call is received, trained call              Is the ambulance service right
            handlers use triage software to decide rapidly         for you?
            what the problem seems to be and emergency
            medical dispatchers decide the right response.         Later on in this booklet you can read about
            Not all patients need an ambulance with blue           the entry routes available for a career in the
            lights and sirens, in fact only a small proportion     NHS ambulance service, whether you are
            of calls need the fastest response.                    starting out fresh from school, as a graduate
                                                                   or perhaps looking to move to the NHS from
            Other callers may need advice over the phone           another career.
            from a specialist clinician in a clinical assessment
            ‘hub’, or they might need a paramedic or               As well as any formal requirements, there are
            double-crewed ambulance for assessment and             some other qualities you may need to be a
            treatment before the patient is taken to hospital      successful member of the ambulance team.
            or an urgent care centre. Many patients can            Some you will learn as your career develops;
            be assessed and treated in their own home by           others are personal qualities. These include:
            advanced paramedics.
                                                                   •    willingness to work as part of a team
            If the situation is critical, one of the call          •    good communication skills
            handlers might have to talk a distressed caller        •    good level of fitness and manual-handling
            through a life-saving procedure or collect                  skills for some roles
            more essential information as an ambulance             •    excellent driving skills for some roles
            or rapid response vehicle travels to the scene.        •    using your initiative, where appropriate
                                                                   •    ability to make decisions under pressure
            Non-emergency ambulance transport is                   •    remaining calm when faced with
            absolutely vital to patients too. Day after                 aggressive or frightened people
            day, patient transport services, as they are
            known, carry disabled, elderly and vulnerable          In the next section, you can learn more about
            people to and from outpatient appointments,            the key roles in the ambulance service and
            hospital admissions, day centres and clinics.          where you might fit in.
            Without them, many people would be unable
            to carry on leading independent lives in the
            community.                                                 For more information about the roles
                                                                       and qualifications needed to work in the
                                                                       ambulance service, visit:

6   Careers in the ambulance service
Careers in the ambulance service - Caring, compassionate, committed Make a difference with a career in health - NHS Health Careers
Careers in the ambulance service   7
Careers in the ambulance service - Caring, compassionate, committed Make a difference with a career in health - NHS Health Careers
Ambulance service
roles at a glance
You can find more detailed information about all the
                                                                                      See real-life stories
ambulance roles listed below on the Health Careers
                                                                                      of people working in
website at                                         some of the ambulance
                                                                                      service roles at the end
There are also short videos about some of the                                         of this section.
ambulance service roles on our YouTube channel:


            Ambulance care assistant/Patient                      people on each journey. Alternatively, you
            Transport Service (PTS) driver                        might work on your own, driving a standard
                                                                  car to transport one or two able-bodied
            In this role you will drive disabled, elderly, sick   people at a time.
            or vulnerable people to and from outpatient
            clinics, day care centres and routine hospital        You will make sure that patients are safe and
            admissions. You’ll be responsible for looking         comfortable during the journey and that they
            after them on the journey and while they are          arrive on time for their appointment. You will
            transferred to and from the vehicle. Because          also be trained in resuscitation in case a
            many of the passengers will be in poor health,        patient is taken ill while in your care.
            ambulance care assistants also need life-saving
            skills in case there is a medical emergency.          Call handler/control assistant

            You will often see the same people on                 Call handlers, like emergency medical
            a regular basis, getting to know them.                dispatchers, have a vital role on the front line
            Some of your passengers will be anxious               of the emergency ambulance service. Based in
            about their hospital visit and others will            a control room as part of a team with a
            lead isolated lives. They will value your             supervisor, you will answer the 999 telephone
            reassuring manner and the chance to chat.             calls to the ambulance service from the public
                                                                  and GPs.
            Based at an ambulance station or sometimes
            a hospital, you’ll cover a particular local area      Working quickly and calmly, you’ll take the
            and might work shifts.                                essential details about the patient’s condition
                                                                  and location, logging them on to the
            You might be part of a two-person team                computer system. This information is then
            using a specially designed ambulance with a           passed on to an emergency medical
            tail-lift for wheelchairs, carrying several           dispatcher to make important decisions about
                                                                  how best to handle the situation.
8   Careers in the ambulance service
Careers in the ambulance service - Caring, compassionate, committed Make a difference with a career in health - NHS Health Careers
Thinking fast, multi-tasking and using           You’ll be specially trained to assess, diagnose,
your initiative, you will often work under       advise over the phone and refer to other
great pressure.                                  clinicians when necessary. You’ll also provide
                                                 specialist advice to ambulance clinicians
You might be dealing with a life-or-death        treating patients out in the community.
emergency, such as a major incident, a heart     In addition to the 999 service, there are
attack or a drug overdose. You might be faced    clinical assessment opportunities in the
with a non-life-threatening situation that       NHS 111 service.
nevertheless needs a response, such as a child
with a suspected broken leg. In extreme cases,   Emergency care assistant
you might have to talk a member of the public
through an emergency procedure, such as          As an emergency care assistant, you are a
clearing an obstruction from someone’s airway.   member of the emergency ambulance crew
                                                 attending 999 calls. You will work alongside a
Equally, you might need to persuade              paramedic, helping them to provide patients
someone that they should visit their GP or       with potentially life-saving care and, where
emergency department rather than calling         needed, getting patients to hospital.
out an ambulance.
                                                 You’ll attend every kind of accident and
Some ambulance services combine the roles of     emergency, sometimes covering considerable
call handler and emergency medical dispatcher.   distances, using your expert emergency
There are also opportunities to work as a call   driving skills to get to the scene with the
handler with the NHS 111 service.                greatest speed possible.

                                                 Under the direct supervision of the
                                                 paramedic, you’ll carry out essential
                                                 emergency care, such as controlling severe
Clinical assessment service roles                bleeding, treating wounds and fractures
                                                 and looking after patients with possible
Ambulance services provide clinical advice       spinal injuries. You will use a defibrillator
over the phone. Clinical assessment teams can    to resuscitate patients with heart failure
include a range of professions:                  and will be trained to give a range of
                                                 different drugs.
•   paramedics
•   nurses                                       As well as your contact with patients, you
•   mental health nurses                         will also have to deal with relatives and
•   pharmacists                                  members of the public. In larger or more
•   palliative care nurses                       serious incidents, you will work alongside
•   GPs                                          the police and fire service.
•   dentists and others

                                                               Careers in the ambulance service     9
Careers in the ambulance service - Caring, compassionate, committed Make a difference with a career in health - NHS Health Careers
3                                                4

             Emergency medical dispatcher                      Paramedic

             As an emergency medical dispatcher, you will      Paramedics have a highly responsible role,
             receive details of 999 calls via the exchange     often being the senior ambulance service
             operator for someone requesting an ambulance.     healthcare professional in a range of
             Using your training, you will ask a series of     emergency and non-emergency situations.
             questions to ensure the most appropriate          You will be one of the first healthcare
             help is dispatched and use a triage system to     professionals to arrive at the scene. You will
             assess the type of emergency and determine        probably be the senior member of a two-
             the response needed. Staff and vehicles are       person ambulance crew, with an emergency
             dispatched automatically or manually, and         care assistant or technician to support you.
             additional resources such as a rapid-response     However, you might work on your own, using
             car, motorcycle or air ambulance may be sent to   a motorbike, emergency-response car or even
             the location as appropriate.                      a bicycle to reach your patients.

             Your speed and accuracy could make the            You will assess the patient’s condition
             difference between life and death. While          and make potentially life-saving decisions
             the clinicians are on their way, you will         about whether the patient can be treated
             probably still be passing them further            at the scene or transferred to hospital. In
             essential details so they can go straight         non-life-threatening situations, you’ll also
             into action when they reach the scene.            have to use your professional judgement
                                                               to make key clinical decisions. Most
             Some situations are complicated and the           patients treated by paramedics do not
             information you receive might be unclear          have life-threatening injuries.
             and need careful checking. The pace can be
             furious: you could be dispatching 15 vehicles     In an emergency, you will use high-tech
             an hour as well as dealing with queries from      equipment, such as defibrillators (which
             the crews. You will work shifts, including        restore the heart’s rhythm), spinal and traction
             some evenings and weekends.                       splints and intravenous drips, as well as
                                                               administering oxygen and drugs.
             Some ambulance services combine the
             emergency medical dispatcher role with            You will be trained to drive what is in effect
             that of call handler.                             a mobile emergency clinic and to resuscitate
                                                               and/or stabilise patients using sophisticated
             Emergency medical technician                      techniques, equipment and drugs. You might
                                                               be called out to someone who has fallen from
             You will work primarily as part of a              scaffolding, for example, or an elderly person
             double‑crewed ambulance with a paramedic but      with a suspected stroke.
             may also work with a range of healthcare staff.
                                                               Based at a local ambulance station, you will
             You will have a broad range of emergency          work shifts, including evenings and weekends,
             care skills such as assessment, triage and        going out in all weathers at all hours of the
             intermediate life support.                        night or day. You will work closely with other
10 Careers in the ambulance service
healthcare teams in the community, such as           of health, and plan the trips to make the
GPs, occupational therapists, mental health          most efficient use of the vehicles and
teams or diabetes specialists, and doctors and       the drivers.
nurses in hospital emergency departments.
You will brief them as you hand your patient         You will work under pressure a lot of the time,
over to their care.                                  thinking fast and multi-tasking, and keeping a
                                                     running check on the service and location of
As well as contact with your patients, you will      all vehicles in your charge.
also deal with patients’ relatives and members
of the public, some of whom might be highly          You may work shifts involving some early
distressed or aggressive. You will also often work   mornings and evenings.
alongside the police and fire and rescue services.
With further training and experience, you could
work in an increasingly wide range of roles.
                                                     Roles for experienced paramedics
To work as a paramedic in the NHS, you need
to be registered with the Health and Care            Once you are an experienced paramedic there
Professions Council.                                 are many opportunities to develop into further
                                                     roles, such as a Hazardous Area Response
Patient Transport Service                            Team (HART) paramedic, a specialist paramedic,
(PTS) controller                                     advanced paramedic or consultant paramedic.

As a Patient Transport Service (PTS) controller,     You will be a paramedic with additional
also known as a non-emergency call handler,          skills and qualifications that allow you to
you will have a key role in ensuring that            carry out more treatments and take on
patients who are frail or vulnerable or have no      more responsibility.
other means of transport get to their health
appointments safely and on time. Based in            You’ll do shift work, including evenings and
a central office, you will book the vehicles         weekends, and also on-call work. As part
that take patients to and from local clinics,        of a team, working with other healthcare
daycare centres and non-emergency hospital           professionals, you’ll have your own area of
admissions.                                          responsibility and be able to provide care
Handling requests for transport from patients
and their relatives and also from healthcare         Working from a response car, GP surgery or
professionals such as nurses, you will have          urgent care centre, you will assess patients
to record patients’ details accurately, usually      with symptoms and conditions such as
using a computer.                                    suspected fractures or chest pain. You might
                                                     also see patients in nursing or residential
You will then have to decide which type              homes, schools or prisons. You will take a
of vehicle is appropriate for each patient,          patient’s medical history, examine them and
depending on their mobility and state                order tests and scans where necessary.
                                                                  Careers in the ambulance service 11
There are also opportunities for experienced
             paramedics with extended qualifications to
             move into executive director posts, research
             and teaching roles.

             Other roles in the ambulance

             To support front-line ambulance service
             staff, there are numerous other opportunities
             in human resources, finance, administration,
             health informatics, estates and motor
             vehicle maintenance. Visit our main website
             for details of these and other careers:

               For more information about roles in
               the ambulance service, visit www.

               For information about management roles
               in the health sector, see our Careers in
               management booklet or visit www.

               To search for current jobs, visit

12 Careers in the ambulance service
Careers in the ambulance service 13
14 Careers in the ambulance service
             Patient Transport Service

Adam Randall

 Job title

Ambulance care assistant, North East
Ambulance NHS Foundation Trust

 Entry route                                                 “I aspire to be a team
Ambulance service apprenticeship                                              manager.”

How I got into the role                                 The best bits

I started working in a restaurant at the age of 15      I love that every day is different; I meet lots of
and this led to an apprenticeship as a chef. Working    people who are usually in poor health and get a
in a restaurant was fun but the long hours and split    lot of enjoyment from being able to have a positive
shifts took it out of me. We had a few customers        impact on what can be a daunting experience for
who were paramedics and I enjoyed talking to them       many of them.
about their jobs.
                                                        The patients can be quite poorly, so it’s sometimes
At 19 I started to think about a long-term career       upsetting. But we have a very good team and we’re
and decided to go to a career adviser. We spoke         able to talk any about issues we may have.
about the ambulance service and she told me about
an apprenticeship scheme they run. I was successful     After my apprenticeship, I gained a level two
with my application and started a couple of months      qualification in customer care, which enabled me
after that.                                             to understand the role more. In the ambulance
                                                        service we have professional development in the
After completing the one-year apprenticeship, I was     form of e-learning and annual training which
successful in gaining a full-time position. I’ve been   refreshes our knowledge and keeps us up to date
here three years now and love it!                       with changes in policy.

What I do                                               When I was an apprentice, I was put forward by
                                                        my team manager for apprentice of the year with
My role is to safely transport patients to and from     Health Education England and came runner up,
care settings such as hospitals and day centres. I      which I’m very proud of. The following year, I won
work with a wide range of people of different ages      apprentice of the year award at Gateshead College.
backgrounds which is very interesting.
                                                        I aspire to be a team manager and have done from
                                                        the outset. I am currently working towards an NVQ
                                                        3 in management which I am enjoying very much.

                                                                           Careers in the ambulance service 15
             Clinical assessment


Ed Green

 Job title

Regional clinical coordinator and
                                                             “Gaining the paramedic
paramedic, East of England Ambulance                 registration was my greatest
Service NHS Trust
                                                                 career achievement.”
 Entry route

Healthcare assistant

How I got into the role                                    What I do

I started work in the NHS at the age of 17 as a            I have a very challenging and highly demanding job.
healthcare assistant at Bedford Hospital. I worked         I am based in one of the trust’s three control rooms
there in various patient care roles before deciding to     but manage regionally, focusing mainly on ensuring
move to the ambulance service.                             the patients without an ambulance allocated are
                                                           kept safe.
I started my technician course 14 years ago and
worked up to paramedic whilst at Luton Ambulance           I also manage our team of paramedics and nurses
Station.                                                   who perform telephone triage on those patients
                                                           with low priority symptoms. And I cover a clinical
I took on several managerial roles before moving           advice line for staff attending difficult incidents and
into ambulance control as a clinical manager.              needing support on how to proceed with their care.
Although it meant moving away from a patient-
facing role which I’ve always loved, I felt that I could   The best bits
have a greater effect on how we use our resources
and ensure we treat more patients appropriately.           The best bits of the job are being able to reassure
                                                           patients who are waiting for a response, triaging
I have developed in many areas through the                 them so they get the most appropriate care, and
years. I’ve completed courses in mentorship and            managing and supporting the team.
leadership, as well as keeping my paramedic
registration up to date. I don’t class myself as           In my healthcare assistant role in different specialties
an academic at all, so gaining the paramedic               I learnt how to communicate with staff, patients
registration was my greatest career achievement.           and relatives. Being able to communicate is key. You
                                                           can be straight out of university with the highest
                                                           marks, but if you don’t know how to talk to or
                                                           relate to those you are trying to treat and care for,
                                                           you won’t gain their trust and providing care will
                                                           become more of a challenge.

16 Careers in the ambulance service
             Emergency medical

Claudette McNaughton

 Job title

Emergency medical dispatcher,
London Ambulance Service NHS Trust                      “It is a big responsibility
 Entry route                                          but I enjoy the challenge.”
Call handling training course

How I got into the role                                When you answer a call you never know what type
                                                       of incident you are going to be dealing with.
When you join the service as an emergency
                                                       I am also responsible for making sure that
medical dispatcher, you complete a call handling
                                                       ambulance crews have as much information as
training course. Once you finish your training and
                                                       possible before they arrive at a scene, so the crew
after approximately six months of call handling,
                                                       can give the patient the best treatment.
you go back to the training centre to learn how to
dispatch ambulances.
                                                       The best bits
At the end of your first year in the service as
an emergency medical dispatcher, you are able          Call handling can be stressful and it is a busy
to answer emergency calls and also dispatch            job, but it is also very rewarding. Often I am the
ambulances to incidents.                               first person someone talks to when they are in
                                                       an emergency situation and need help. It is a big
What I do                                              responsibility but I enjoy the challenge.

                                                       As an emergency medical dispatcher you get a lot
I joined the London Ambulance Service as a call
                                                       of job satisfaction – knowing that you have helped
handler in 1991 after working in the control room
                                                       to save a person’s life or helped deliver a baby over
for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty
                                                       the phone is a great feeling.
to Animals (RSPCA). I work 12-hour shifts as an
emergency medical dispatcher.

I mainly work in the call handling section of the
control room answering emergency calls from people
including members of public, the police, London
Underground staff, GPs and the London Fire Brigade.

                                                                           Careers in the ambulance service 17

Tyiba Pervaz

 Job title

Paramedic, West Midlands
Ambulance Service University NHS               “The best bit is job satisfaction
Foundation Trust
                                                              when I actually treat
 Entry route
                                                             patients’ conditions.”
Access to higher education course

How I got into the role                                What I do

I have a certificate in health from Manchester         There is no such thing as a typical day as every
Metropolitan University (an access to higher           day is so different and varied. The paramedic role
education qualification) and have worked in care       itself is becoming more of a social healthcare role
since age 16. I had a lot of experience in different   as opposed to emergency care, although I prefer
care settings, but decided I wanted to specialise      dealing with more life-threatening emergencies.
in emergency medicine. I started working for the
ambulance service in 2011 with a mindset that I will   The biggest myth about my role is that every job
progress to paramedic level.                           you go to is a life-threatening case. This is not true,
                                                       although some of the cases we deal with have the
In 2012, I started working as a driver for the non-    potential of becoming life threatening if they are not
emergency Patient Transport Service. In 2014, I        dealt with and treated promptly.
moved to the emergency operations centre taking
999 calls and in 2015, I was recruited onto the        The best bits
trust’s student paramedic programme. During the
programme I completed the technician training and      The best bit is job satisfaction when I actually treat
later went to university to undertake a degree in      patients’ conditions, especially when I can start their
paramedic science.                                     treatment and make them feel better before they
                                                       arrive at hospital. I have recently started a Master’s
I’ve been practising as a qualified paramedic          degree in emergency resilience, planning and
since December 2017 and have since completed           response at the University of Wolverhampton. I am
a mentor course which enables me to support            constantly looking at ways to develop my role as a
other students. I have previous leadership and         clinician as well as within leadership.
management qualifications as well as other care-
related qualifications.

18 Careers in the ambulance service
             Critical care paramedic

Emma Relf

 Job title

Critical care paramedic,
South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS
Foundation Trust
                                                        “I love the fact that every
 Entry route
                                                                     day is different.”
Trainee ambulance technician

How I got into the role                                 What I do

I started my career in the NHS as a call operator       As well as carrying out the full range of usual
in the control room at my local ambulance service       ambulance duties and responsibilities, I also respond
headquarters, but as soon as I was 21 and eligible,     to life-threatening calls. My specialist role allows
I started to pursue my career on the frontline.         me to assess and diagnose injuries, and use more
                                                        powerful drugs and equipment on the scene that,
For the last ten years I’ve worked in a range of        until recently were only used in hospital.
roles. I trained as an ambulance technician before
becoming a qualified paramedic. I’ve also worked        I also work closely with our air ambulance service,
as a clinical team leader, providing support to other   medical director and local hospital departments,
clinical staff and managing a team. I was keen to       such as theatres, A&E and intensive care units, to
widen my skills and wanted further responsibilities     maintain my skills when I’m not working in the
and my trust had just developed a new critical          normal ambulance environment.
care paramedic role, which specialises in managing
acutely ill and critically injured patients affected    The best bits
by a wide range of conditions, such as trauma. I
successfully applied for the post, and after seven      I have always enjoyed the buzz of being a
months of training, I gained my postgraduate            paramedic but I wanted to develop my skills, so
qualification. I am now studying for my Master’s        I jumped at the chance to train as a critical care
degree in Paramedic Science.                            paramedic. I work 12-hour shifts which are long and
                                                        tough but I love the fact that every day is different.
                                                        Knowing I have made a positive difference to a
                                                        person’s life also makes the job worthwhile. I work
                                                        within a supportive team with a great sense of
                                                        humour which sees me through the difficult days.

                                                                            Careers in the ambulance service 19
Getting started in the
ambulance service
Whatever your age, education and qualifications, you can join the ambulance service at
a level that’s right for you. You’ll be given every support to develop your career if this is
what you want. Below are some of the options and entry routes available to enter the
ambulance service team.

             As well as meeting minimum academic                    The number and type of work placements
             standards, ambulance trusts are keen to view           or volunteering opportunities available vary,
             evidence of a range of skills – see the list on        depending on where you are in the country.
             page 6.                                                Experience doesn’t always need to be gained in
                                                                    the NHS either, so think about the independent
             Ambulance services sometimes vary in the way           health sector, charities and other organisations
             they provide training and the job titles they use,     where you could provide care for people as a
             so it’s important to find out what your local          way of gaining experience.
             service offers.
                                                                    For more information about opportunities
             Work placements and volunteering                       in your area, talk to your local trust or
                                                                    healthcare provider and voluntary
             Doing volunteer work or arranging a work               organisations. You can also find more
             placement is the best way to find out if a             information on gaining experience at
             health profession is right for you. It will give you
             experience of the working environment, show
             you the kind of work you would be doing and
             the people you would be helping, and let you
             talk with people who are already doing the job.

20 Careers in the ambulance service
Remember that if you’re applying for a role either directly in the NHS or in
    an organisation that provides NHS services, you may be asked to show how
    you think the values of the NHS Constitution apply in your everyday work.
    Find out more at and


Apprenticeships are often available in                elsewhere in administration, business, reception
ambulance services which can provide                  and vehicle maintenance could all be really
invaluable experience of the workplace. Some          useful if you’re considering a non-patient facing
apprenticeship roles may work directly with           role in the ambulance service.
patients and service users, such as Patient
Transport Service driver or care assistant. The       Experience gained through an apprenticeship
associate ambulance practitioner role being           can boost your confidence and help you to
offered by some ambulance service trusts can          secure a role in the ambulance service or other
be entered through a 12 month apprenticeship.         healthcare setting.

A degree apprenticeship standard for
paramedics has been approved and is one                 Apprenticeship vacancies in health can
route into the profession.                              be found on the NHS Jobs website at:
                                               and the
Other apprenticeships may be based in                   Government Apprenticeships website at:
administration or involved in maintaining the 
fleet of ambulance vehicles.

Other organisations that provide healthcare
have apprenticeship opportunities that could
provide great experience of working directly
with patients or the wider public. Similarly, roles

                                                                    Careers in the ambulance service 21
Entry level/assistant roles

             The ambulance service has an excellent record     To drive an ambulance, whether emergency
             in staff development. Many people in senior       or non-emergency, you will need a full,
             roles – whether in clinical or management         (usually) clean, manual driving licence with
             jobs – came in at junior levels with fewer        the appropriate classifications as set out by
             qualifications. Local ambulance trusts differ     individual ambulance service trusts.
             in their entry requirements. However, some
             ask for GCSEs or equivalent vocational            Graduate opportunities/approved
             qualifications, while others will also recruit    courses
             people with a good general education and/or
             work experience.                                  To practise as a paramedic, you must
                                                               be registered with the Health and Care
             Some ambulance service trusts recruit             Professions Council (HCPC). To register, you
             apprentices into support roles, such as           must successfully complete a course approved
             associate ambulance practitioner,                 by the HCPC. Courses are currently offered at
             within patient transport services (see the        diploma of higher education and degree level
             Apprenticeships information on page 21).          but moving to degree-only level in the future.

             When you join, you will be given full training.   Some courses are open on a full-time basis
             Much of your learning will be practical and       to direct entrants applying through the
             on the job, but some will take place in a         Universities and Colleges Admissions Service
             classroom. Once you have had your initial         (UCAS), and part-time to those already
             training, you will spend time working             working in appropriate ambulance service
             under supervision.                                roles. Some ambulance trusts offer student
                                                               paramedic posts, where you will be recruited
             If you come in as an emergency care assistant,    specifically to train as a paramedic while
             after experience and further training, you will   working. This may be through a degree
             have the chance to apply for any available        apprenticeship. Courses last from two to five
             student paramedic positions. You will have        years, depending on whether you study full-
             to pass entrance exams and fulfil additional      time or part-time.
             selection criteria, competing against other
             (including some external) applicants, before      It’s important to check entrance requirements
             being accepted into a student paramedic           with the university concerned and with the
             position. Alternatively, you could leave your     partner ambulance trust/s in the areas where
             employing organisation and apply for a full-      you want to work.
             time university course in paramedic science.

22 Careers in the ambulance service
As a qualified paramedic, you will be
eligible for one of the growing numbers
of part-time and full-time degree and
postgraduate courses in the developing
area of emergency care. They are run by a
number of higher education institutions,
equipping students with the specialist
knowledge and skills to contribute to the
development and effective delivery of care
in an emergency setting. These qualifications
can lead to a post as a specialist paramedic.


Funding arrangements vary from trust to
trust. For on-the-job training, you will be paid
a salary while you learn. Some employers, but
not all, will support you if you need the extra
driving qualification.

  Read more about studying to be a
  paramedic at www.healthcareers.nhs.

  Speak to your careers adviser,
  call us on 0345 60 60 655 or email to find
  out more about approved courses in
  paramedic science.

                                                   Careers in the ambulance service 23
Next steps and progressing
your career
If you want to work in health, it’s important to find out as much information
as you can about the qualifications you need and the opportunities that
are available.

             If you have decided that you want to join the     •   Are there any particular skills or experience
             ambulance service, your next step depends             that will improve your chances of getting
             on your starting point. Health Careers can            into your chosen career?
             provide further information on routes in and
             general entry requirements. You can also          •   Have you enquired about opportunities to
             consult your local careers adviser.                   volunteer or do relevant work experience?

             If you need a degree, you usually need to         •   Have you investigated further
             apply through UCAS which provides details of          qualifications you might need for
             the universities offering courses. You can also       your chosen role?
             use the course finder on the Health Careers
             website to get an approved list of approved       •   Have you searched the NHS Jobs website
             university courses in paramedic science:              or spoken to your local trust to get an
                        idea of the type of vacancies available?
             Each university will be able to tell you what
             they look for in applicants.
                                                                   Whatever position you’re in now, the
             If you are already working but are thinking           Health Careers service can help.
             about a change of career, consider volunteering       Call us on 0345 60 60 655, email
             in your spare time. This is a great way to find
             out if you like the work, and can sometimes           or visit our website at
             lead to a more permanent position.          

             Here is a checklist of things you should              To search for jobs and apprenticeships,
             be doing, whether you’re still at school,             go to
             studying for your degree or looking for a   
             change of career:
                                                                   For apprenticeship vacancies, visit
             •   Have you explored routes into your      
                 chosen career? Will you need a degree
                 or other qualification before you join,           For job vacancies with other health
                 or will an employer train you on the job          organisations, visit
                 (there may also be the opportunity to   
                 start as an administrator)?

24 Careers in the ambulance service
Here are some other things you can be doing, depending on where
you are right now:

 Where are            What should you do now?                                   Who can help?
 you now?

 Studying for          Visit                         Subject teachers
 your GCSEs            Check what your likely exam grades/results will be.     Your careers adviser
                       Explore routes into your chosen career – will you       National Careers
                       need a degree or other qualification before you         Service
                       join, or will the NHS train you on the job?             Professional bodies
                       Can you start as an assistant?                          Health Careers
                       Are there any particular skills or experience that
                       will improve your chances of getting into your
                       chosen career?
                       Enquire about volunteering or work experience.
                       Find out if you need any specific A-levels, or
                       equivalent qualifications.

 Studying for        As GCSEs, plus:                                           Subject teachers
 A-levels or           If you need to study a particular higher education      Your careers adviser
 another course        course, investigate which universities offer it.        National Careers
 at your school or     Investigate any further qualifications you might        Service
 a local college       need for your chosen role.                              UCAS
                       Search the NHS Jobs website at          Health Careers
                       and speak to your local ambulance trust to get an       Professional bodies
                       idea of current vacancies.                              NHS Jobs
                       Consider the option of an apprenticeship.               Local ambulance trust

 At university       As A-levels                                               University careers
                                                                               Health Careers
                                                                               Professional bodies
                                                                               NHS Jobs
                                                                               Local ambulance trust

 Looking for         As A-levels, plus:                                        National Careers
 a new career          Find out if you will need to retrain before you         Service
                       apply for new roles or if the NHS will train you        Access to Higher
                       while you are working.
                                                                               Health Careers
                       If you left school some time ago, visit the
                                                                               Jobcentre Plus
                       Access to Higher Education website at
                                                                               Professional bodies
              or contact the
                                                                               NHS Jobs
                       National Careers Service for course details.
                                                                               Local ambulance trust

                                                                      Careers in the ambulance service 25
Fulfil your potential
    The NHS is committed to offering development       The example career routes on p.30-31 make it
    and learning opportunities for all full-time and   easy to see at a glance how you can progress
    part-time staff. If you work for the NHS, no       within your chosen career.
    matter where you start, you’ll have access to
    extra training and be given every chance to        Other organisations that provide healthcare
    progress within the organisation. You’ll receive   and work to prevent ill health will offer similar
    an annual personal review and development          development opportunities and the chance to
    plan to support your career progression.           review your work. It’s a good idea to discuss
                                                       career development with any employer you
    You will also be encouraged to extend your         are considering.
    range of skills and knowledge and take on
    new responsibilities through the Knowledge
    and Skills Framework (KSF). The KSF is available
    on the NHS Employers website:

26 Careers in the ambulance service
Benefits of working in the NHS
As a member of the ambulance service team in the NHS, you will enjoy one of
the most competitive and flexible benefits packages offered by any employer in
the UK and a wealth of opportunities to develop your career. You will join one
of the country’s most respected organisations and one which has the values of
compassionate care and staff wellbeing at its very heart.

If you work in the private or voluntary sectors or another public sector
organisation, your pay and benefits will vary depending on your employer.

          Your pay in the NHS ambulance service

          Most jobs are covered by NHS terms and         band 6 after two years. Specialist paramedics
          conditions of service (Agenda for Change)      are employed at band 6. Your earnings in
          pay bands, except doctors, dentists and very   frontline operational roles are often enhanced
          senior managers. The NHS job evaluation        with unsocial hours payments of up to 25
          system determines a points score, which        per cent of basic salary, which reflects the
          is used to match jobs to pay bands and         24-hour nature of the service. There are
          determine levels of basic salary. Each pay     promotion opportunities, for example to
          band has a number of pay points. Staff will    service area managers at band 7, with further
          normally progress to the next pay point        managerial roles attracting higher bandings.
          annually until they reach the top of
          the pay band.

          Your career in the NHS ambulance service
          could start as an ambulance call handler          For more information on pay bands and
          or control assistant at AfC band 2, or in a       the most up-to-date salary information
          patient transport service role at bands 2, 3      in your chosen career, visit
          and 4. Paramedics start at band 5 as part of
          their learning programme and progress to

                                                                      Careers in the ambulance service 27
One of the UK’s best pension schemes             Health and wellbeing at work and
                                                              your work-life balance
             The NHS Pension Scheme is one of the most
             generous in the UK. Every new employee           The NHS is committed to helping staff to
             automatically becomes a member, unless you       stay well, including serving healthier food,
             choose to opt out.                               promoting physical activity, reducing stress,
                                                              and providing health checks covering mental
             Other employment benefits for NHS staff          health and musculoskeletal problems.

             Everyone employed under the NHS Agenda
                                                                  The NHS will help you combine
             for Change pay system is entitled to:
                                                                  your work with commitments
                                                                  in your everyday life and at
             •   a standard working week of 37.5 hours
                                                                  different stages of your career –
             •   holiday entitlements of 27 days per year,        whether you’re studying for a new
                 plus eight general and public holidays,          qualification, raising a family or
                 rising to 33 days after ten years’ service       have other responsibilities.
             •   pay enhancements to reward out-of-
                 hours, shift and overtime working
             •   career and pay progression based on the      The size and diversity of the NHS means we
                 application of knowledge and skills          can offer you a range of flexible working and
             •   annual personal development review to        retirement opportunities. Part-time roles and
                 support career aspirations                   job-share opportunities are often available, as
             •   occupational health services                 well as term-time only, evening and weekend
             •   study leave for sponsored courses            positions. Many people take an extended
                                                              break to look after young children or other
             Many of these benefits apply across              dependants who need special care, or to
             the whole of the NHS, although local             study full-time.
             organisations may offer additional benefits
             such as cycle to work schemes and nurseries.     As well as advice and support for people
             Many local shops, restaurants and services       looking after sick or elderly relatives, the NHS
             offer discounts to health staff too, including   provides a range of childcare services for
             most gyms and leisure centres. Health Service    employees, including:
             Discounts is an employee benefit provider for
             many NHS organisations and offers discounts      •   nursery care
             and deals for NHS staff on shopping, holidays    •   after-school and breakfast clubs
             and financial services from well-known           •   holiday play schemes
             brands:           •   emergency care

                                                              You can find more information on health
                                                              and well-being at work at www.

                                                              Get more information about the benefits
                                                              and opportunities offered by the NHS at

28 Careers in the ambulance service
Example career routes
The diagram on pages 30 and 31 has been designed to provide examples of how staff
can progress throughout their career in health.

It gives an illustration of a range of health careers    The real-life story on page 16 describes how Ed
and how someone could progress through different         Green has progressed within the ambulance service.
levels. It is not exhaustive; details on other careers   You can follow his career path in the white boxes
can be found in the relevant Health Careers              on the diagram, alongside other potential paths in
booklets and on the Health Careers website.              the different areas of health.

                                                                           Careers in the ambulance service 29
Senior healthcare        Assistant practitioners/                                Senior practitioners/           Advanced                 Consultant
                                 Initial entry level jobs     Support workers                                                                        Practitioners                                                                                        More senior staff
                                                                                       assistants/technicians     Associate practitioners                                specialist practitioners        practitioners            practitioners

                                                            Therapy clinical support   Occupational therapy       Assistant practitioner in     Occupational therapist   Senior occupational        Advanced occupational     Consultant

              Allied health
                                                            worker                     rehabilitation assistant   occupational therapy                                   therapist                  therapist (team leader)   occupational therapist

                                                            Patient Transport          Ambulance care             Ambulance technician          Paramedic                Specialist paramedic       Advanced paramedic        Consultant paramedic       Clinical director of
              service team

                                                            Service driver             assistant                                                                                                                                                         service

                                                            Dental nurse               Student dental             Assistant dental technician   Dental technician        Senior dental
              Dental care

                                                                                       technician                                                                        technologist

                                 Health records assistant   Support desk assistant     Medical records clerk      Helpdesk adviser              Web developer            Special projects           Head of                   Access, booking and        Director of

                                                                                                                                                                         manager                    communications            choice manager             information

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         management and

                                                            Phlebotomist               Newborn hearing            Critical care technologist    Cardiac physiologist     Senior biomedical          Specialist respiratory    Consultant clinical        Director of regional

                                                                                       screener                                                                          scientist                  physiologist              scientist (medical         genetics services


                                                                                                                  General office manager        Payroll manager          Clinical manager,          Regional clinical         Maxillofacial laboratory   Director of human

                                                                                                                                                                         ambulance control          coordinator               manager                    resources

                                                            Healthcare assistant       Maternity support                                        Midwife                  Community midwife          Head of midwifery         Consultant midwife         Director of maternity

                                                            (maternity)                worker                                                                                                                                                            services

                                 Nurse cadet                Healthcare assistant       Senior healthcare          Community care assistant      Staff nurse              Senior staff nurse         Clinical charge nurse     Nurse consultant in        Director of nursing

                                                            (nursing)                  assistant                                                                                                                              stroke

                                 Pharmacy porter            Medicines counter          Senior pharmacy            Pharmacy technician           Pre-registration         Pharmacist                                           Lead pharmacist for        Director of clinical

                                                            assistant                  assistant                                                pharmacist                                                                    admissions                 support services

                                                            Healthcare assistant       Mental health support      Trainee psychological         Trainee clinical         High intensity therapist                             Consultant clinical        Assistant director -

                                                            (mental health)            worker                     wellbeing practitioner        psychologist                                                                  psychologist               clinical professional

                                 Young Health               Health champion            Health trainer             Stop smoking adviser          Health improvement       Senior health              Specialty registrar in    Public health              Director of public
                 Public health

                                 champion                                                                                                       practitioner             improvement                public health             consultant                 health

                                 Porter                     Maintenance assistant      Security officer           Medical secretary             Catering manager         Chaplain                   Head of estates


30 Careers in the ambulance service                                                                                                                                                                                                       Careers in the ambulance service 31
For further copies of this
    booklet please contact:


    NHSCB05 February 2019

       Health Careers

32 Careers in the ambulance service
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