Emergency Care Assistant

The Job and What's Involved

As an Emergency Care Assistant (ECA) you would drive ambulances under emergency conditions and support the work of qualified ambulance technicians (where this role exists) and paramedics.

Your day-to-day duties would include:

  • Using advanced driving skills to respond to medical emergencies.
  • Transporting patients between hospitals and clinics for planned appointments and treatment.
  • Safely transferring patients to and from ambulance vehicles, using suitable equipment and manual handling skills.
  • Helping ambulance paramedics and technicians deal with urgent hospital admissions.
  • Responding to any other situation as directed by the emergency control centre.
  • Helping to complete a 'hand over report', recording all patient information.
  • Making sure your vehicle is road worthy and properly kitted out and cleaned (paying particular attention to infection prevention) after every call.

When responding to an emergency, you would have little warning of the exact circumstances. For example, you could be involved in:

  • Carrying out basic scene safety checks and assessing the risk to yourself and others, in line with health and safety guidelines.
  • Contacting the emergency control centre to request extra support when needed.
  • Carrying out basic diagnostic procedures under the direct supervision of a paramedic.
  • Supporting the delivery of first aid and minor emergency treatments.
  • Monitoring and treating patients until they are transferred to hospital.

Your work would involve communicating with patients and relatives with dignity and respect in often challenging circumstances. You would also work closely with emergency services, relevant authorities and health and social care professionals.

You would typically work 37.5 hours a week including shift work, evenings, weekends and bank holidays. Part-time hours may be available once you have completed your training.

You would wear a uniform, which includes protective clothing such as a bright jacket, safety boots and, in some services, a stab-proof vest. You would spend much of your time in the community. Your work may involve heavy lifting, when transferring patients.

Your work is likely to involve attending to emotionally distressed patients in difficult situations, and you may occasionally face verbal aggression from people under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Emergency care assistants can earn between around £15,600 and £18,500.

Extra allowances (known as salary uplifts) may be paid to workers in certain regions, and to those expected to be on standby, working unsocial hours or rotational shifts.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Employment in the NHS ambulance service is generally stable. However, to find a position, you may need to relocate. You could contact your local ambulance service for further advice on opportunities in your region.

Education and Training

Each regional ambulance service can set its own entry criteria and training, so it is important you check the details with the ambulance service you wish to join.

In general, to become an ECA you need:

  • Excellent driving skills and up-to-date knowledge of the highway code.
  • Previous experience in a customer care role.
  • An awareness of equality and diversity in the work place and surrounding community.
  • Good fitness levels and good eyesight (prescription glasses are acceptable).

You will also need a full B and C1 category driving licence with no more than three penalty points or any short period disqualification. You may be accepted with a provisional C1, but you will usually need a full licence before you start training (some ambulance services may help you achieve the licence, but this is not standard). You must be at least age 18 to apply for a C1 licence.

Some ambulance services will also prefer you to have:

  • A current First Aid Certificate.
  • A good standard of education (for example, 3 or 4 GCSE's (A-C) including English, maths and a science subject).
  • Experience of working in a patient care setting, ideally in the NHS.

A full Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check will be carried out when you apply for this role.

For more information contact your local ambulance service listed on the NHS Choices website.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Once you are working as a trainee ECA, you will have a period of intensive training. This can take around nine weeks and cover areas such as:

  • Basic life support skills.
  • First aid.
  • Moving and handling techniques.
  • Specialised driving skills.
  • Procedures for collecting patients.
  • The process of transferring patient care to other health professionals.

Your training could also involve working towards a BTEC Level 2 Diploma in Emergency Care Assistance.

For your first six months in post, you will be monitored and assessed as part of an ongoing training programme.

Throughout your career, you will need to keep up to date with advances in patient care relevant to your role. You will be expected to continue your professional development and keep a portfolio of practical and clinical experiences that show your skills and knowledge.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

An emergency care assistant needs:

  • A genuine desire to help and care for others.
  • Emotional resilience and physical stamina.
  • Good spoken and written communication skills.
  • Good listening skills and powers of observation.
  • The ability to use communication and computerised systems.
  • A flexible approach to manage a changing workload.
  • A responsible attitude to work.
  • Good team working skills.
  • The ability to drive under emergency conditions.
  • Good decision making skills.
  • The ability to remain calm under pressure.
  • An understanding of patient confidentiality.
  • The ability to follow safe manual handling techniques.

Your Long Term Prospects

As an experienced ECA, you could apply for a student paramedic post (check the Ambulance Paramedic job guide for details). However, this is not a guaranteed progression route and you would apply for training in open competition with external candidates.

You may also find opportunities for secondment or promotion in the ambulance control room, in a training role, or in human resources.

Get Further Information

NHS Careers, PO Box 376, Bristol BS99 3EY
Tel: 0345 60 60 655
Website: www.nhscareers.nhs.uk

Skills for Health,
Goldsmiths House, Broad Plain, Bristol BS2 0JP
Tel: 0117 922 1155
Website: www.skillsforhealth.org.uk

College of Paramedics,
Website: www.collegeofparamedics.co.uk

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