Ambulance technician apprenticeship: requirements and skills
Updated 30 May 2023
If you're passionate about healthcare provision and saving lives, and can remain calm under pressure, a role as an ambulance technician may suit you. You may work with paramedics and nurses in the emergency department and other medical practitioners when performing your duties. Familiarising yourself with the ambulance apprenticeship programmes you can complete to successfully become an ambulance technician can help you determine if it's a suitable career. In this article, we define ambulance technicians, discuss steps you can take to complete an ambulance technician apprenticeship programme, outline their duties and highlight the skills you may gain from the training.
Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.
What is an ambulance technician apprenticeship?
An ambulance technician apprenticeship is a training programme pursued to gain the skills and knowledge to work as part of an ambulance crew and provide high-quality pre-hospital care when responding to emergencies. An ambulance or Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) is a healthcare specialist who trains and earns certifications to initiate the provision of pre-hospital emergency care for patients before or during transportation to hospital by air or ambulance. Ambulance technicians work in a fast-paced environment and may sometimes work outside typical working hours when responding to emergencies.
As an apprentice, you would work under the supervision of senior ambulance technicians and paramedics when performing duties such as:
Monitoring vital signs and treating patients: Vital signs you would check and monitor include the patient's respiratory rate, pulse rate and blood pressure to ensure stability. Paramedics can also guide you in determining what drugs to administer to improve the patient's condition.
Transporting patients to and from the ambulance: Lifting and moving patients to and from the ambulance employs safe patient handling techniques to avoid injuries from over-exertion. This may involve learning how to operate the stretchers and restraints.
Writing handover reports: You may write handover reports for medical officers and other healthcare specialists at the hospital's emergency department. Include a brief history of the presenting case with information from eyewitnesses where necessary to ensure satisfactory patient care in hospital.
Stocking the ambulance with medical supplies and equipment: Ambulance technicians document in handover reports the drugs they administer to each patient. You can use these records to restock medical supplies for another emergency call.
Cleaning the ambulance: Ambulances often carry patients from emergencies such as road accidents. After each call, cleaning the ambulance using alcohol-based or other sterilisation agents helps with infection control.
Responding to emergency calls: Ambulance technicians collaborate with emergency dispatchers to receive patient details and locations when responding to emergency calls. Depending on the severity of the patient's condition, you would use the sirens to get there faster.
How to complete an ambulance technician apprenticeship
Learning how to complete an apprenticeship for an ambulance technician can guide you on what to expect during the programme. Review the following steps you can follow to complete your apprenticeship:
1. Meet the entry requirements
Most organisations require you to satisfy some entry requirements before accepting you to their EMT apprenticeship training. These include a minimum age of 18 years, a full UK manual driving licence with at least one year of driving experience and four or five GCSEs at grades 9 to 4, including Maths, English and Science. The role requires physical fitness, allowing you to lift and move patients into and out of the ambulance, so organisations require you to pass their fitness assessment.
Related: How to become an EMT in 5 steps
2. Complete your training
Consider applying for a paramedic science, emergency ambulance technician or ambulance support worker apprenticeship to qualify for an ambulance technician role. EMT apprenticeships offer a training programme that incorporates lectures and practical sessions. Apprentices learn about the basic concepts of the human body and functioning, and how to respond to emergency cases. The training includes ten months of classroom training, a four-week Level 3 Certificate in Emergency Response Ambulance Driving (CERAD) and placement at an ambulance station. Apprentices focus on the following areas during their training:
Anatomy and Physiology
Learning anatomy and physiology can teach EMTs about the normal structure and functioning of the human body. Understanding how normal body systems function can help you identify abnormalities. This can help you gauge the severity of the patient's condition when providing first aid.
Understanding the various emergency drugs you can use to stabilise patients and provide first aid can save lives. Learning pharmacology can guide you on various drugs' pharmacodynamic and pharmacokinetic properties. Pharmacology training can improve your competence in assisting paramedics to prepare and administer treatment. It can also help you prepare appropriate drug doses for paramedics to administer.
This unit involves learning how to safely drive an ambulance, perform repairs and maintenance and use the medical equipment within the ambulance. Maintaining the vehicle ensures its efficiency and reliability. You learn to turn on the sirens and communicate with dispatchers and other emergency services. Ambulance operation training also guides you in operating the vehicle's navigation systems to locate emergency incidents. You can also learn how to clean and sterilise the ambulance to minimise the risk of infection transmission, as paramedics sometimes perform invasive procedures there.
Basic life support
Basic life support refers to the care first responders and other healthcare specialists may perform for patients experiencing cardiac arrest, respiratory distress or airway obstruction. This training empowers you with the skills to assist paramedics in performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and using Automated External Defibrillators (AED) to resuscitate and stabilise patients. Basic life support (BLS) training can help you improve your emergency response time by guiding you on the specific patient conditions to assess, such as airway, breathing and blood circulation. This helps you determine their condition's severity and choose the appropriate intervention to implement.
Without proper training on moving injured or critically ill patients, you may unknowingly worsen their condition during transportation. This involves learning the appropriate strategies to mount patients on to stretchers and put them into the ambulance without injury or harm. Once in the ambulance, they can collaborate with the paramedics to secure the patients with restraints. This training can also teach you to monitor patients' vital signs, provide oxygen and manage other medical interventions while in transit.
3. Pass your exams
At the end of your training, you take an assessment to determine your qualification for the role. Apprenticeships typically run for 12 to 18 months, and the trainers perform a gateway examination at 13 months to assess your knowledge before sitting for the endpoint assessment. The examiners perform the assessment in five parts to determine your core skills and expertise, patient assessment, intermediate life support, situational judgement and driving skills. They can use both theoretical and practical methods to assess each aspect.
Examiners often simulate emergencies using practice dummies to assess your skills. You may pursue several qualifications such as NCFE Level 2 Functional Skills in English and Maths, Level 3 Certificate in Emergency Response Ambulance Driving and Qualsafe Level 4 Diploma for Associate Ambulance Practitioners. After passing your exams, consider applying to The Health and Care Professionals Council (HCPC) to become a registered ambulance technician.
Ambulance technician apprentice skills
By completing the apprenticeship programme, you gain various skills to help you efficiently perform your duties as an ambulance technician. These skills can include:
Keeping calm under pressure: Ambulance technicians work in fast-paced environments when providing medical care as first responders during emergencies. Remaining calm under pressure can help them make sound decisions to offer life-saving interventions while ensuring their own safety and that of the patient.
Communication: Communication skills can help you actively listen to family members or eyewitnesses when taking a patient's history. They can also enhance your collaboration with paramedics and hospital medical specialists during patient management.
Medical equipment operation: Ambulance technicians use specialised medical equipment such as AEDs and blood pressure machines to resuscitate and monitor critically ill patients while transporting them to hospital. They can also use oxygen tanks with nasal prongs or masks to provide oxygen support to patients in respiratory distress.
Driving and navigation: You can use your driving and navigation skills to follow directions to locate patients needing emergency care and manoeuvre through traffic to arrive promptly. Paramedics often perform medical procedures to stabilise patients in the ambulance, so safe driving skills are essential.
Infection control: Maintaining sterility using appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) such as gloves can help prevent the spread of infection to yourself and the patients. You can also maintain sterility when performing invasive procedures such as intubation or inserting IV lines using alcohol-based agents as an infection prevention and control measure.
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