By Melodie Veldhuizen
Are you considering a career as a paramedic, but you are unsure if you possess the appropriate skills and qualities for such a challenging and exacting profession? Would you like to know what the daily responsibilities of a paramedic entail, where you can receive training and if there is a demand for paramedics? More information is given below.
What is a paramedic?
A qualified paramedic delivers specialised medical care to patients who were involved in accidents, in emergency cases and in other crisis situations such as fires. Usually he/she is the first person with medical knowledge who arrives at an emergency situation and into whose care injured and ill persons are entrusted. The treatment of a patient in those first few minutes of an emergency situation can mean the difference between life and death.
Skills, interests and personality traits
- Interested in medical care, but not keen on years of study to become a nurse or medical practitioner.
- Cares about people (specifically people in distress and pain, as well as their next of kin) and the need to alleviate their pain and discomfort.
- Good communication and interpersonal skills and patience to calm down all parties at the scene so that you can give your full attention to the patient. Often it is also necessary to explain to the patient what happened and what you are doing while busy with the treatment.
- A sense of responsibility to want to do everything humanly possible to try and save the patient’s life and make him/her as comfortable as possible.
- Have the ability to handle extremely stressful situations and stay calm. Usually there is chaos, hysteria and sometimes even anger at the scene of the accident or disaster, or even a situation at home where someone has suffered a heart attack, or a child fell into the swimming pool. You have to be able to handle it and focus on the patient.
- Must be physically fit and strong to, often alone or with the help of just one other person, pick up or move a patient. You also have to be energetic and possess the perseverance to keep on going and not become disheartened until you have done everything in your power to stabilise the patient.
- Must be flexible and adaptable and willing to work long and unusual hours. Emergencies do not choose convenient times to take place. Your services may be needed at the most inconvenient time and despite other plans, you have to be willing to do your job. Emergency service personnel sometimes work shifts of up to 24 hours.
- Must be emotionally strong to be able to observe gruesome scenes and act decisively without taking flight.
- Critical thinking and decision-making skills to evaluate the patient’s condition correctly and make the right diagnosis You have to be able to identify and evaluate problems correctly and use good judgement to find solutions to the problem.
- Excellent navigation and driving skills. Sometimes you are expected to be a passenger to show the driver the way; at other times you have to rely on your own capabilities to find the way. You furthermore have to be able to drive fast yet safely to reach the emergency scene as soon as possible, and from there also transfer the patient to the hospital quickly and safely.
Duties and responsibilities of paramedics
- React to calls to emergency situations, whether they be accident scenes, drownings, injuries, emergencies such as heart attacks, strokes or any other emergency situation at home or in public places.
- In the case of an accident or an emergency such as a fire where more than one person has been injured, evaluate the situation and prioritise, from extremely serious to less serious, who should be the first to receive medical assistance.
- Diagnose patients and apply first aid on the scent: this entails a widely diverse spectrum – measuring blood pressure, wound care, relieving pain by administering injections and intravenous medication, the use of specialised medical equipment such as ventilators and defibrillators.
- Stabilise the patient and prepare him/her for transport to the hospital.
- Monitor his/her condition continuously on the way to the hospital.
- On arrival at the hospital, inform the doctor and other medical personnel about the patient’s injuries and symptoms.
- If necessary, provide assistance to the hospital personnel.
- Communicate with the patient and next of kin or friends to calm them down and reassure them.
- Write reports and make notes about the patient’s condition.
Training of paramedics in South Africa
There are various levels of training for emergency medical workers, as well as several institutions that offer this training. The duration and cost connected to the training are determined by the nature and extent of the course and the type of qualification obtained. For more information, consult the following websites: https://www.paramedictrainingspot.com/guide-to-becoming-a-paramedic-in-south-africa/ and https://careerplanet.co.za/careers-listing/paramedic2/
Job opportunities for paramedics
According to ER24, there has been an enormous growth in the profession in South Africa in the last 25 years, and there still is a big need for skilled, qualified paramedics. The most important work providers are government and private hospitals, as well as private emergency services such as NETCARE 911 and ER24. The minimum requirements are a qualification obtained from an organisation that trains emergency service personnel, registration with the South African Council for Health Professions (SACHP), a valid driver’s license and a professional driving permit (PrDP) for the transport of goods and passengers.
Before you make a final decision, it is advisable to do volunteer work and experience the daily life of a paramedic for a few days to see if this is the ideal career for you.
Career Planet. https://careerplanet.co.za/careers-listing/paramedic2/
Paramedic Training Spot. https://www.paramedictrainingspot.com/guide-to-becoming-a-paramedic-in-south-africa/
Target Jobs. https://targetjobs.co.uk/careers-advice/job-descriptions/276267-paramedic-job-description