Of all the possible careers in the healthcare sector, perhaps the most challenging but ever-changing role is that of a paramedic. The complex nature of the work means that it isn't the right choice for everyone, but for those who are suited to it a whole new world can open up. Of course, as with most of the important healthcare roles, becoming a paramedic involves rigorous education as well as hands-on training, so it’s not a role you can simply step straight into.
Another major thing to consider is whether or not you are the kind of person who can deal with stressful and traumatic situations that are likely to be among the most extreme anyone is likely to encounter. Having the innate ability to work calmly under intense pressure, to assess situations quickly and be flexible about finding solutions, and to understand that your actions can literally be matters of life and death for another person are things that don’t come naturally to many people.
However, if you are one of the lucky few who ticks all of these boxes, becoming a paramedic means choosing a career in which you are guaranteed to be making a vital contribution to society. More than that, it is also one of the very few roles in healthcare that offers such a high level of personal satisfaction and reward, knowing that your actions can save lives on a day to day basis.
The first steps
Knowing the role and what it involves is essential before you even decide to take the first steps on the path to becoming a paramedic. Anyone thinking of choosing the role as a career needs to plan ahead and do their research. Your local ambulance trust website is a good place to start and there you will find lots of information to get you going. The various professional and registration bodies also offer plenty of online information about taking the first steps.
There are skills that a course can't teach you, so understanding your own abilities and talents is also an important early part of the process as you can highlight these in interviews and applications. This level of self-awareness also allows you to know exactly which areas you need to put more effort into to make the grade.
Training direct with an ambulance service can mean you learn on the job and this can be especially important for anyone who is looking to change from an existing career. This offers a separate route into the work other than taking a university course. In fact, the competition for job vacancies is high as the field is oversubscribed in terms of applicants. Many candidates who are unable to find a direct-entry route work in other healthcare areas as diverse as A&E and community assistant roles. This leads to a depth of experience that can then be put to good use when reapplying. Training, assessments and exams are all part of paramedic training regardless of which route you take, eventually leading to a mix of on-the-job experience and ongoing assessments.
Learning on the job
Whether you take a university or direct training route, the period of 'on the job' training is potentially very stressful. This entails direct firsthand experience of emergency situations, initially as an observer but soon becoming an active participant. This leads to challenging experiences and needs a strong support system to be in place to help trainees discuss with peers and trainers about their reactions.
One of the most valuable aspects of this process is learning about communication with patients who will most likely be in extreme conditions of danger to health. Training, education and experience will all need to be constantly called upon throughout a paramedic's career, and it is this basic grounding period that allows you to find your feet and build the confidence needed to be successful in the role.
After taking the time to find the right entry path to the profession, going through the necessary training and education and finally becoming a registered paramedic, you will be set up for a long term career unlike any other. Becoming acclimatised to traumatic situations in not something that suits everyone, and coping with the challenges that can face a paramedic on a regular basis requires resilience and a strong character. However, part of learning how to be a paramedic is knowing that there is help on hand for you because you are part of a team of like-minded people who understand the nature of the work. Lifelong bonds can be forged through this kind of camaraderie and it is yet another reason why so many people decide that a career as a paramedic is the right choice.