Paramedics provide an immediate response to emergency medical 999 calls. They are usually the first senior healthcare professional on the scene and they are responsible for assessing a patient's condition and providing treatment and care prior to hospital admission.
Treatment may include:
resuscitating and stabilising a patient;
using high tech equipment such as a defibrillator;
applying spinal and traction splints;
administering intravenous drips, drugs and oxygen.
A paramedic will attend emergencies including minor injuries, sudden illness, and casualties arising from road and rail accidents, criminal violence, fires and other incidents. They are usually in a two-person ambulance crew with the other crew member being an ambulance technician or emergency care assistant who helps them. Some will work alone however, using an emergency response car, motorbike or bicycle to get to a patient.
Typical work activities
A paramedic's day is always different as they constantly have a new set of patients who can be suffering from a range of illnesses. Even if some illnesses become more prevalent at certain times of the year, there will still be variation in the work as each patient with the same illness will have a different scenario. Although the work is diverse there are some regular tasks, which include:
responding to 999 calls for medical assistance at accidents, emergencies and other related incidents, usually in an ambulance with an ambulance technician or emergency care assistant to help;
assessing the condition of patients who are injured or taken ill suddenly;
providing an immediate course of treatment en route to hospital or on scene;
applying splints to limbs, dressing wounds, administering pain relief, oxygen, drips and fluids;
using highly technical equipment, including ventilators to assist breathing and defibrillators to treat heart failure, in order to resuscitate and stabilise patients;
carrying out certain surgical procedures when necessary, such as intubation (insertion of a breathing tube);
monitoring the patient's condition;
assessing whether and how to move patients and, where appropriate, the best location to transport them to;
liaising with members of other emergency services, such as the police, fire brigade or coast guard and other ambulance services to ensure the appropriate level of response is provided;
dealing with members of the public and family members present at the scene;
driving and crewing an ambulance or other rapid response vehicle;
cleaning, decontaminating and checking vehicles and equipment to maintain a state of operational readiness;
assisting with patient care in hospitals or health care centres;
producing thorough case notes and reporting the patient's history, condition and treatment to relevant hospital staff.
Written by Helen Meyer, University of Hertfordshire
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