If your life's ambition is to be an ambulance driver, you may want to reconsider how you put that. Most of the fine people in this profession prefer to be called “paramedics.” It’s a far more accurate word to describe what they do. Getting the title right is important to paramedics.
We all know what we mean by the word "paramedic," but it’s worth noting that Australia does not regulate the use of the term. Anyone can wake up and declare, “I’m a paramedic.” Of course, anyone can stomp around all day declaring whatever he or she wants.
So the question remains, how does one become a real paramedic, if not by declaration?
To become a paramedic in Australia, there are several pathways with varied outcomes depending on which state you live in. To become a fully-fledged statutory paramedic, you’re going to need some certifications. In short, you’ll need at least a level IV certificate for entry level outfits, but there is a bevy of other pathways you can travel.
You can pursue a bachelor’s degree, vocational program, or post-graduate degree. All of them will require a practical placement before you are 100% ready. Today we’re going to cover the ins and outs of each, and give you an idea of what your options will be with each pathway. No stomping or declarations required.
There is value in the traditional route for education. For starters, it’s kind of a rite of passage to attend university, live in the dormitories, and go to parties. It’s not for everyone, but some feel like they would really miss out on this aspect of life if they didn’t play along. In any case, this usually involves a three-year commitment.
Regarding the actual academics, bachelor degree programs for paramedics vary widely depending on the university. You can graduate with your bachelor of clinical practice to be a paramedic, or receive your bachelor of health science with a major in paramedicine. The key is to know where you want to go after graduation and to follow the course of study that best aims you in that direction. Talk to someone who is doing the work you wish to be doing, in your state, and ask how did they get there? The school will be able to give you direction as well. In any case, make sure you enrol in a course that will qualify you to practice as a paramedic upon graduation.
As stated, the traditional route isn’t for everyone. Factors like time, money and personal preference drive many to consider alternate means of secondary education. Hey, not everybody wants to live on campus and go to parties. That’s okay. The good news? With just one year of study, in a vocational school like TAFE, you can receive your level IV certificate in health care. It may take you two years in the same program to receive your diploma of paramedic science, but when you’re done you can shout to the heavens: “I’m a paramedic!” You won’t be lying.
That said, you may still be short of your goals. In 2012, state ambulance services transitioned from paramedics requiring a vocational qualification to now requiring a bachelor degree as the entry level industry standard. If this is where you’d hoped to end up you may have missed a step in your planning. Going back to school at this point may be a difficult pill to swallow. It may also not be an easy task to transfer your credits to your desired program.
Don’t despair. For one, you’re still a paramedic. In the second place, some private ambulance services still only require a level IV certificate for qualification. You can start working in your profession while you consider your next moves.
Not tired of school? More education may be right up your alley. There are a few who will go on to get their post-graduate degree. For this program, typically you’ll be required to complete a bachelor degree in a related field such as health, science or nursing for entry to a post-graduate paramedics course. Besides buying you more time as a student, this degree will come with the obvious benefits of additional qualifications and opportunity.
To land a job as a paramedic in an intensive care outfit, or in a mobile intensive care ambulance, you'll need to complete post-graduate work. If your goal is to become an administrator or an educator, then this may be the next step on your way to a master’s. Of course, there’s always value for simply pursuing more education. For some people, this is what life is all about.
As a standard of Australian education, before you can walk out of school and into the ambulance, you’ll need to spend a year interning. Don’t be surprised if your mates in other countries don’t have to do this. It’s not necessarily good news for them. Saving lives just isn’t something you want to learn on the go.
In your practical placement, you’ll get to work alongside qualified paramedics in the field. This is a very important and exciting part of your training as a paramedic. Here, you'll get real-world exposure to the daily ins and outs of what you will be doing yourself. By the time you take your first real job, you'll have been exposed firsthand to most situations.
The really good news you should know about your internship program is that if you’ve been enrolled in one, this means you’ve been hired by an EMS outfit. In order to intern, you have to be employed. See there? You really are a paramedic. Feel free to stomp about now.
Lastly, you’re going to need some tools of the trade as a paramedic. We suggest that you get comfortable with a stethoscope
of your liking as soon as possible. Sure, we sell them, so we're biased, but you really will need one. A great tactic to get one is to start dropping hints now with loved ones for holiday gift ideas. "Gee Mum, I sure could use a lemon-lime coloured Littmann Cardiology III stethoscope
, hint-hint." Take a look at what we offer, do a little research, and get your gear as soon as possible. A trusty stethoscope to a paramedic is like a good hammer to a carpenter.