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Paramedics are specially trained healthcare professionals who form part of an ambulance team and are usually the first emergency service providers to arrive at the scene of an incident. They are responsible for giving emergency, on the spot, treatment to patients in order to ensure their condition is stable enough that they can either avoid having to go to hospital or that they can be safely transported to a hospital for further treatment.
When they arrive at the scene, they will assess the patient or patients’ condition by talking either directly to the patient or to witnesses. They check vital signs – breathing, pulse, blood pressure and temperature – and resuscitate patients who are not breathing. In severe cases, it will be the responsibility of the paramedic to make quick decisions about the kind of treatment or drugs the patient requires. They will often have to administer drugs to relieve pain or control a variety of symptoms.
Paramedics will need to be trained in, and capable of, dealing with a number of different situations, including the immediate assessment and management of flesh wounds, burns, fractures, spinal injuries and head wounds. In some cases, paramedics will have basic training in obstetrics in order to deal with straightforward childbirths. In situations with in which complications arise, paramedics will need to transport patients safely to the attention of more skilled specialists.
Trained paramedics will know how to use a range of machines and equipment, such as defibrillators for patients with heart failure, portable oxygen generators for people with respiratory difficulties and devices to monitor patients’ vital signs.
They need to work very closely with both ambulance technicians and hospital staff, to ensure that all involved know the exact details surrounding the patient’s condition, the treatment they have already received and any further treatment they will need subsequently.
Paramedics will most commonly drive ambulances, although some are specially trained in helicopter search and rescue. Others might work single-handedly on either a motorbike or a bicycle.