A paramedic responds to emergency calls as part of an emergency team, or as a first responder, using procedures they have been trained to do. They usually work in a two-person crew alongside a technician or care assistant. However, they can also work on their own using a motorbike to attend to a call out.
You could be:
assessing the patient's condition and making a decision on treatment
operating advanced life saving or life support equipment in emergency situations
using defibrillators (to restore the heart's rhythm), spinal and traction splints, and intravenous drips
giving medication and oxygen to patients in emergency situations
taking charge at an incident until a senior officer arrives
handing over the patient to the medical or nursing staff at the hospital, giving them a factual verbal report of the patient’s condition
completing patient report forms
working with police and fire service crews.
Ambulance staff who work for the NHS are paid on the Agenda for Change scales. The current pay scales are from April 2023. Paramedics are on Band 6, £37,831 to £46,100 a year.
Your base would be the ambulance station or hospital but you would spend much of your time out in the ambulance attending to patients in accidents and emergencies.
You would work shifts including evenings, nights and weekends.
You would be faced with distressing situations.
You would wear a uniform or sometimes other protective clothing such as helmet or high visibility jacket.
To become a paramedic, you must complete the BSc in Paramedic Science at an approved university. Currently within Scotland this is offered at Glasgow Caledonian University, Queen Margaret University, Robert Gordon University, the University of Stirling and the University of the West of Scotland offer the BSc Paramedic Science degree. On successful completion you can apply for vacancies as a qualified paramedic.
For entry to Glasgow Caledonian you need 4 Highers at BBBB (or CCCC for widening access entry) including English (or another English based subject) and Biology or Human Biology plus Maths at National 5.
For entry to Queen Margaret you need 4 Highers at BBBB (or BBCC for widening access entry) including Biology (or Human Biology) and English or another English based subject plus National 5 English and Maths or Applications of Maths and preferably another science subject.
For Robert Gordon's University you need Highers at BBBB (or BBC or BCCC for widening access) including a science subject, English preferred plus English and Maths at National 5.
For entry to the University of Stirling you need 4 Highers at BBBB including one from Maths, Biology, Chemistry or Physics.
For entry to the University of the West of Scotland, you need 4 Highers at ABBB (or BBBB for widening access) including Biology or Human Biology plus English and Maths at National 5.
Alternatively you could complete an HNC or HND is a health or science based subject at college before progressing to degree.
All applicants must pass the Scottish Ambulance Service entrance test including accident and emergency fitness test, interview and occupational health screening.
You must have a full current Category C1 driving licence. You will also be required to undertake a pre-employment driving assessment. You must have no more than 3 penalty points.
You must pass an entrance exam and a medical examination. You must be physically fit.
You will require a satisfactory criminal record check from Disclosure Scotland to show that you are suitable for this type of work. Contact Disclosure Scotland for details on the type you would need.
Job vacancies appear on the myjobscotland website. Most ambulance work is with the NHS, but there are also jobs with the armed services. There are some private ambulance companies around the UK including one or two in Scotland.
able to get on with people from all backgrounds and of all ages
patient and understanding – you will be dealing with patients who may be distressed or in pain
able to work well in a team
willing to take control of a situation
able to remain calm in emergencies and cope with unpleasant sights
quick thinking and able to make decisions in difficult situations
resilient and able to deal with the emotional impact of distressing situations.
You will study for the degree in Paramedic Science at university and complete a number of placements within the health and social care sector.
Successful completion of the BSc Paramedic Science leads to eligibility to apply for registration with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). You require this to work in the NHS.
You will continue to keep your skills and knowledge up to date through Continuing Professional Development (CPD). The Scottish Ambulance Service provides annual 'learning in practice' training opportunities.
All UK ambulance service trusts offer a Newly Qualified Paramedic programme that will allow new paramedics to transition from education into their new role.
You may be promoted to senior paramedic working from a response car.
With experience you could become a clinical advisor within an Emergency Medical Dispatch Centre.
With further training you could join the air ambulance service which operates from Aberdeen, Glasgow and Inverness.
The Scottish Government offers eligible paramedic students a bursary. For 2023/24 this is £10,000 which is paid in monthly instalments throughout the course.