Emergency care assistant
Emergency care assistants are part of the team at emergency scenes working with paramedics.
An emergency care assistant (ECA) responds to emergency calls as part of an ambulance service team. They usually work with a qualified practitioner, such as a paramedic or senior paramedic, carrying out emergency care at the scene. This could include:
- controlling bleeding
- treating wounds and fractures
- dealing with patients with spinal injuries
- using a defibrillator to resuscitate patients with heart failure.
ECAs help to move patients safely and observe vital signs (breathing, temperature, blood pressure, etc) reporting any changes to the qualified clinician. They use medical and life support equipment carried on vehicles. Sometimes, the ECA looks after the patient during the journey to hospital. In other cases, the ECA drives the emergency vehicle, often in a blue light situation.
ECAs have to respond to any emergency situation. Many emergencies are likely to be distressing and involve people who are badly hurt and severely traumatised. For example:
- road accidents with victims who have multiple severe injuries
- someone who has had a heart attack in a busy shopping centre
- an elderly person who has fallen down the stairs
- a case of domestic violence
- a very sick baby being moved to a specialist centre
ECAs take relevant information from carers or others at the scene. There may be other people nearby who are upset or angry.
As well as driving emergency vehicles, ECAs check their vehicle at the start of and during each shift, to make sure they are clean, have fuel and are stocked with the right supplies. Other duties include completing paperwork and using communication equipment (radios and telephones) to speak to colleagues.
As well as working with paramedics, ECAs work with other members of the ambulance service, such as control room staff. They also work with doctors and with the other emergency services, including the fire service and police.
Training and development
All ambulance service trusts offer initial training for new ECAs, usually around six to nine weeks. This covers:
- moving and handling techniques
- emergency first aid
- basic patient skills
- safe driving techniques
Training includes practical assessments and written exams. Once you have passed these tests, you are allocated to an ambulance station. You work under the guidance of a trained supervisor before working unsupervised.
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- Pay and conditions Expand / Collapse
Most jobs in the NHS are covered by the Agenda for Change (AfC) pay scales. Although ECAs in the NHS will usually work standard hours of 37.5 per week, these are on a shift pattern. Shifts cover 24 hours a day, 7 days a week throughout the year. So an ECA’s work pattern includes evenings, nights, early starts, weekends and bank holidays. ECAs need to be prepared to work outdoors in all conditions, where necessary.
Terms and conditions can vary for employers outside of the NHS.
- Where the role can lead Expand / Collapse
You could progress to become a team leader or supervisor. You would be in charge of a team of ECAs, responsible for allocating work and drawing up shift rotas.
You could apply to train as a paramedic. You would have to pass entrance exams and meet other requirements before being accepted onto a paramedic course.
- Job market and vacancies Expand / Collapse
Most NHS organisations advertise their job and apprenticeship vacancies on NHS Jobs, including those who run NHS services. Some advertise on their own websites. You can find a list of NHS organisations at NHS Choices.
If you're applying for a role either directly in the NHS or in an organisation that provides NHS services, you'll be asked to show how you think the values of the NHS Constitution apply in your everyday work. The same will be true if you are applying for a university course funded by the NHS. Find out more about NHS values.
- Further information Expand / Collapse