How to become a nurse paramedic (with duties and skills)
Updated 21 June 2023
If you want to work in a fast-paced, high-pressure medical setting, then the role of a nurse paramedic can be ideal for you. This profession combines the life-saving patient care skills of nursing with the short-term responsibility of being a paramedic. Knowing what it takes to pursue this career path can help you decide if it's something you want to do. In this article, we explain how to become a nurse paramedic, explore the role's responsibilities and show you what it's like to work in this profession.
What is a nurse paramedic?
A nurse paramedic is a professional who combines nursing and paramedic practice to provide emergency medical care to patients on their way to the hospital or another medical facility. The primary responsibility of nursing paramedics is to stabilise patients after health incidents, like accidents or heart attacks. They usually work in ambulances, but it's also possible for them to work in medical planes or helicopters as flight nurse paramedics. Nurse paramedics are commonly responsible for the following tasks:
carrying patients to ambulatory vehicles on stretchers
using life-saving measures like dressing wounds, opening airways and intubating
administering oxygen and medication
performing CPR or defibrillation
monitoring vitals with ECGs and connecting IVs
caring for patients with acute reactions
documenting pre-hospitalisation patient conditions, including procedures and medications they received during transport
tracking inventory of medical supplies
How to become a nurse paramedic
Emergency medicine is a specialised field that requires formal training and knowing how to become a nurse paramedic can help you create a better career development plan for yourself. It's usually a long-term process and it takes at least a few years before you can work independently as a member of the emergency medical staff. Here are the specific steps you want to take to work in this role:
1. Obtain an undergraduate degree
The first step to becoming a nurse paramedic requires that you obtain an undergraduate nursing degree. Most nurse paramedics start their careers this way, as it allows them to gain basic medical knowledge and build a strong set of nursing skills. Most nursing courses at universities offer some form of industry placements, either part- or full-time. This is a great opportunity for you as an aspiring medical professional to test your abilities in practice and see if working with patients is what you want to do professionally.
To qualify for a nursing course, it's necessary to have a minimum of five GCSEs and at least two A-levels, including English, maths and one science subject or equivalent. Undergraduate nursing degrees usually take from three to four years to complete. During the course, you're likely to spend up to 2300 hours in a medical facility as a part of your clinical placements.
2. Become a registered nurse
To become a registered nurse (RN), it's necessary that you register with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). As an RN, you're responsible for complying with the code, which is a document that outlines the professional standards of practice and behaviour for nursing professionals. If you want to maintain your registration, it's necessary that every three years you undergo the process of revalidation. To renew your nursing registration, it's obligatory that you've worked at least 450 practice hours, provide five pieces of feedback and submit a health declaration.
3. Gain experience as an emergency room nurse
There are many specialisations that you can pursue as a nurse. If you aspire to work in emergency medicine and become a member of the ambulance staff, you may consider working as an accident and emergency room (ER) nurse first. Just like the work of a nurse paramedic, it can expose you to working in a fast-paced environment and help you develop advanced emergency room abilities, like decision-making and prioritisation. As an ER nurse, you'd assist ER doctors and trauma surgeons, assessing patients' conditions, treating critical injuries and performing minor medical procedures, like stitching wounds.
4. Consider a postgraduate course
To work in an ambulance, it's a requirement that you obtain a degree in paramedic science or complete a relevant apprenticeship degree, for example, in trauma science. As a registered nurse with emergency room experience, you may consider enrolling in a postgraduate paramedicine programme, which takes around two years to complete. There are also postgraduate combination degrees in nurse paramedicine available, which you can complete right after getting your A-levels.
5. Register as a paramedic
Upon successful completion of a degree in paramedic science, you're eligible to register with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) as a paramedic. The HCPC is an organisation that set out and maintains standards for paramedics and emergency medicine professionals. To obtain the registration, it's necessary that you provide proof of first aid training and an enhanced criminal record certificate. For most paramedic roles, a C1 driving licence is also obligatory.
A nurse paramedic stands next to a list with the title "Key skills of nurse paramedics" and these skills:
• Assessment and diagnostics
• Communication and empathy
• Time management
Key skills of nurse paramedics
As they're highly specialised professionals with two medical specialisations, nurse paramedics have strong sets of both nursing and paramedicine skills. Some of the professional abilities they may use in their daily activities include:
Assessment and diagnostics
Nurse paramedics' primary responsibility is to stabilise patients. To do that, it's essential that they have expert understanding of anatomy and physiology. It's also beneficial to have at least a few years of experience in assessing patients in a standard medical facility environment.
Emergency professionals are the first ones helping patients after health incidents. When arriving at the scene, they never know how their patients feel or what type of injuries they have. Strong adaptability helps them quickly assess the situation and use the most effective measures to help everyone.
Communication and empathy
Communication and empathy help succeed in this profession, as they make it easier to connect and interact with patients. Typically, paramedics work in teams of at least two. Understanding the other person's communication style and knowing how to react to it can significantly improve the effectiveness of the treatment and diagnosis they make in an ambulance.
Nurse paramedics use their decision-making to initiate proper patient care plans. Whenever there's a person with a life-threatening injury, it's necessary that paramedics react quickly and with are as effective with their decisions as possible. Thanks to strong decision-making skills, they can analyse situations objectively, following the right procedures.
Being able to multitask and complete tasks quickly is essential to being an effective nurse paramedic. Daily, these professionals may complete life-saving procedures while monitoring vitals. If the patient is conscious, they do all this while communicating the procedures and situation to them.
What it's like to work as a nurse paramedic
Nurse paramedics often work irregular and long shifts. Working evenings and nights is a standard for them, and it's usually difficult to predict how busy each shift can get. Since they're often dealing with life-or-death situations, it's a high-stress job, which can be physically and psychologically demanding. Despite these challenges, it's a highly rewarding role that allows them to help people during moments of vulnerability.
Nurse paramedics usually begin their shifts at the hospital, collecting medical supplies and stocking their medical bags. Once their gear is ready, they wait on-call. As soon as the emergency medical dispatcher informs them that there's been an accident, they go to the ambulance and drive to the site, where they pick up and stabilise injured people to prepare for transporting them to the hospital.
Please note that none of the companies, organisations or institutions mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.
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