Ambulance service team

The ambulance service is about getting patients to where they need to be cared for in emergency and non-emergency situations.

Ambulance service staff provide care at the scene of the emergency, drive ambulances and other vehicles, and care for the patients travelling in them. Staff in the control room take calls and send ambulance service staff and vehicles to where they are needed.

Patient transport vehicle outside hospital

Emergency services

Emergencies occur all the time, so ambulance staff have to be ready to respond. Someone who is hurt or seriously ill needs help quickly. 999 calls go to a central control room where staff take the details needed to decide who to send to deal with the situation. The response could be via an ambulance, rapid response car, motorcycle or even a helicopter.

Whichever vehicle is sent will have staff on board who can assess and deal with the situation. Emergency roles include:

Non-emergency services

Not everyone needs an ambulance in an emergency. Patients also need to get to and from routine hospital appointments. Some patients are too elderly or vulnerable to drive or use public transport. Patient Transport Service (PTS) ambulances are adapted for frail or disabled passengers and have an assistant on board to help with loading and unloading. Some more able-bodied patients travel in PTS cars. If you work in patient transport, you could be:

For a job in emergency services, you need to be able to deal with any situation. You have to be able to stay calm when you hear or see distressing events and reassure other people at the scene, including the patient. You’ll be happy working on your own or as part of a team.

PTS staff need to be calm and reassuring, as patients may be anxious about visiting hospital. All ambulance work is quite physical, with lifting and carrying involved. Communication skills, including listening, are very important for all ambulance service jobs.

For any ambulance service role you need good literacy and numeracy (sometimes GCSEs) and good communication skills. Call handlers and dispatchers need good IT skills. To drive an emergency vehicle, you need a driving licence for the type of vehicles the service uses. Paramedics have a qualification in emergency medicine. They may study at university and then enter the NHS or apply to become a student paramedic in an ambulance service. Either way, you need A-levels (or equivalent) and relevant experience, voluntary or paid.

Once you join an ambulance trust, you will keep your skills up to date with regular training. As you gain experience, you can progress. Experienced paramedics can become Hazardous Area Response Team (HART), specialist, advanced or consultant paramedics and call handlers can become shift leaders or control room managers. Emergency care assistants can apply to train as paramedics.

Your caring nature, communication skills, organisational skills and ability to stay calm could lead you to an ambulance service career.

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