3 Ways: How To Work For An Ambulance Service (Career Tips That Pay Off)

This is a list of actionable tips for people who want to get into this healthcare industry niche, be recruited and kickstart a great career in the ambulance industry. In fact, these same stratgies apply for everyone (with or without experience) and helped many potential job applicants realize their childhood dream to work in an ambulance and fulfil their desire for the rush from the intense rescue work.

3 Ways To Work for An Ambulance Service (Career Tips That Pay Off)

This is a list of actionable tips for people who want to get into this healthcare industry niche. Plus, be actively recruited and kickstart a great career in the ambulance industry. 

In fact, these same stratgies apply for everyone (with or without experience). It has helped many potential job applicants realize their childhood dream to work in an ambulance and fulfil their desire for the rush from the intense rescue work. (Despite some of them knowing the ugly side of the ambulance industry.)

So if you want help to make that career switch, jump into ambulance work or simply to find employment in emergency services, you’ll love this list of tips, techniques and strategies.

Let’s get started.

1. Get the hang of shift work

Employment vacancies in the ambulance service sector are usually “shift-based”. If you can’t wake up, sleep soundly or think properly at odd hours of the day, general guidance says that you can consider adjusting your sleep cycle to support your ambulance work schedule. More details on this below.

How ambulance shifts work

A typical shift starts at 7:00 AM and could run between 8 to 12 hours, where you would usually see yourself knocking off work at 4 PM in the the afternoon. 

The second shift could clock in at 3 PM. A quick toolbox briefing between the shifts usually contributes the professional education and healthy banter during the conversations between the earlier and later shifts. Discussed usually is the cases which happened that shift, what went well, went wrong and could’ve been done better. Shift two ends work at 12 AM (midnight). 

These shifts are set by the ambulance service provider and has been widely accepted by the industry.

Getting to work if you’re on shift

Taxi transport or Uber is claimable either on a per receipt basis or included in your salary as a hour shift, full shift, transport allowance or workers compensation. Alternatively, your ambulance organsation may provide senior ambulance officers with a prepaid debit card for use. Otherwise, shifts are scheduled around normal human waking hours so either you start or end work when the public bus is operational. At least in this way, a career in the ambulance service means you still get to talk to people, chit chat and see the light of day! Shift work is not all bad.

Family time while on shift work

Adjusting to this schedule of shift work as the new norm of suitable work provides extended family time as well. While on shift, some employers attract and retain star employees with additional service leave, paid time off or even weekly payments (instead of having wages paid at the end of the month. HR guidance also says that workers should have open conversations with their families about their irregular work schedule and late nights. This helps workers get the moral support they need to maintain their employment and reduce unjust discrimination from their own families.

Management in ambulance services have seen that complying to employment regulations and statutory requirements are the bare minimum. Additional benefits provided (see above) also support the challenging work environment in this healthcare sector. There have been positive response – great employment retention rates (which means most ambulance staff stay in their jobs) and job satisfaction levels. There is some evidence to suggest that these benefits are seen as increased employee-employer contact time. These actions outright suggest that their bosses care for their staff beyond just an agreement or contract of emplyment. 

In summary, allowing for even more time off and a more regular source of income, many ambulance crew enjoy this form of work program.

Fetch Me to Work: Getting a Ride

Back to the topic of getting to work while on shift hours in the ambulance sector, the most popular way of handling transportation of ambulance shift workers is to get the ambulance driver to fetch them from home. This method is the number 1 choice for ambulance organisations and shift leader as it reveals the most effective form of planning. 

Who works in an ambulance during shift work

Each ambulance team comprises of at least 2, and up to 4 team members. Shift planners will group these number of people who live in the area close by to form an ambulance team. The driver in each team will pick his colleagues up before reporting to headquarters for their start of shift. Upon the completion of the last case, the ambulance drops each person close to their home. Finally, the ambulance driver returns the vehicle at the office and heads home via public transport (if available), taxi or Uber. 

Bringing the Ambulance Home: This is My Ambulance

If you work for a private ambulance operator, the management can decide to allow the driver to park the vehicle at his own home. Thereafter, the driver is assigned a vehicle.

Under the assignment, the driver will be responsible for the cleaniness and general maintenance of the vehicle. It is a duty as part of his shift work. Disposable equipment such as IV needles and fluids have to be accounted and resupplied periodically. These logistical tasks are done by the driver.

If the driver lives a distance away, he or she may be asked to split the cost, financially contribute to petrol used or forfeit transport allowance in his monthly wages within his employment conttract. Use of ambulances on non working days is usually not allowed as ambulances are seen as emergency vehicles. You wouldn’t expect a guy in shorts fumbling with groceries and exiting an ambulance, right? Trade union, health and safety laws do not cover employees on non working days as well. 

2. Start to get mentally fit

It is rewarding to see lives get saved and family members happy. However, ambulance work is a physically demanding and mentally exhausting career path.

First to Arrive at the Incident Location & You Make the Final Call

Ambulance officers encounter emergency calls which can be medical or trauma in origin.

Example: Medical – cancer patient losing consciousness. 

Example: Trauma – car collision injuring a driver where a twisted back is observed. 

As the first medical responder at scene, you (will eventually) realise you are autonomous and an independent healthcare professional where you assess and act based on your knowledge, training and work experience. Primary care involves effective risk assessment and taking the option which poses the greatest chances of maintaing or improving the patient condition and his related injuries.

In most cases, you don’t get to consult a doctor or your senior because they are not at scene in-person to survey – see, touch, hear and feel. In practice, circumstances may not be evaluated correctly when the information from one staff is explained to the next. Without further detail, it is challenging and sometimes inappropriate to advice the next course of action in terms of medical care. In the interest of public health, medical professionals not at-scene refrain from giving details in guidance, a final decision or action to take because it may be incorrectly referenced to for future cases.

Therefore, your final judgement call matters. Patients’ lives are in your hands. 

Register this: This is exactly what is meant by “every second matters”.

Take the Physical Exam Early

Maintaining personal health and fitness is a fundemental necessity to ensure you can perform your role inside the ambulance cabin. 

If you have yet to submit a job application or are in the job-hunt process, it is beneficial to know early if your body can support your career ambitions in working for the ambulance sector.

Are you in your 20s?

For prospective employees in their late 20s or early 30s, the physical exam could reveal underlying conditions. These can prevent you from working at your best.

Results could include an irregular heart rhythm or impaired (poor) night vision. You wouldn’t want to end up being the patient instead of helping someone else.

These conditions can be invisible to the naked eye and are underlying, even in young people.

You may not be offered employment or within your employment agreement in the above situations.

Further, you may be asked to openly declare the kind of additional support you require (not want) at work.

This is to be transparent with the worker early on. It also helps the employer to protect its own interest from getting hit with a discrimination suit or end up in court. Furthermore, these declarations help both parties show disclosure & hard evidence of compliance. It can include employment regulations, statuatory and union (not all companies / healthcare institution take part in this) requirements. 

For young persons who have been generally healthy all their lives, this workplace assessment can help ensure continuous employment long term and be great for mental health (knowing you have a clean bill of health). 

Are you hitting your 30s?

For prospective employees in their mid to late 30s, the physical exam may be less of a factor as you may not be required to engage in as much physical work. These manual work could be delegated to the young kids who have an excess of energy but as much passion as you.

Typically this age group are in their mid-career switch vying for a more fulfilling frontline role in healthcare. Personally tending to the sick and injured is likely to be a desire waiting to be realized. Therefore, your professional previous knowledge and advanced skills in performing / assisting procedures like intubation, opening a central line in the patient’s neck or initiating ventilator support will be way more valuable.

In more ways than one, the chances you positively affect the patient’s quality of life is far greater when you maximise utlity of your brain capacity (through your investigation skills & clinical guidance) at the frontline with other ambulance workers.

The little kids can do their eye irrigation outside the ambulance!

Paramedic work is not advisable for candidates above the age of 30. There are minimum ability, physical control & standards required for the role.

These become concerns for Human Resources (HR) as standards may not be met. Thus it is uncommon to see HR do not roll out offers to these candidates. This is despite the candidate showing strong and sustained interest. (Sorry..)

Emergency responders need the fitness level not often associated with the more senior crowd. Generally, the downtime of the older staff because of recovery of back pain through lifting & carrying or taking medical leave can hinder operations, ambulance capabilities and response time. The inconvenience could be weeks!

3. Know the ambulance industry better: this means money

Some patients simply do not have the money to afford medical attention by emergency services. Yet, they still dial for an ambulance or their family, or a passerby does the calling. 

Even with social safety nets, community programs and options to pay in installments with regular payments, it is unfortunate that social care does not cover 100% of ambulance fees.

Who does an ambulance “work” for?

We all seem to agree with is that the ambulance works for the patient.

However, the ownership of the ambulance is inconsistent in the healthcare industry. The following terms below do not mean the same thing.

Private Ambulance, Government Ambulance, Public Ambulance & Hospital Ambulance. 

Looks the same, but totally different in meaning

Further details – ambulance services worldwide are segmented into public and private organisations who run ambulance as a service. These two broad categories, public sector and private sector, can own & operate the vehicles, equipment and employ staff to pick up patients. These said ambulances can operate from a serviced office, industrial building, a hopsital or hospice.

Therefore ambulance works for the benefit of their own organisation. Public emergency services aim to create a minimum level of basic & immediate medical care to anyone in the community. Private ambulances places public health concerns aside and provide primary care with centred around exclusivity, capabilities and higher levels of service. (More on this topic below)

And, public & private ambulances charge the same services at different prices.

In the free market, supply and demand for ambulance services set the $.

For certain ambulance organisations, these treatment providers feature exclusivity – sending the patient to the requested hospital (whereas public ambulances can’t waste public resources to bring the patient to the hospital they prefer).

Certain ambulance operations can’t do some services (because they are less equipped to do so). Managing a ventilated patient is difficult. Buying the ventilator is expensive. Hiring the right person to manage that ventilator is hard to find. The employee needs to be available – if the ambulance transfer is at 2 AM and he is dead asleep then poof!

Complaints about ambulance services and the ambulance “people”

Most associate gratitude with saving the patient’s life with a sucessful ambulance ride. Whereas, some have the cheek to complaint to the medical board, police or city / town councils. 

Emergency medical services are not cheap.

Equipment are charged in the tens of thousands and preventive maintenance of the said medical equipmet costs hundreds every quarter. Not to mention the unexpected costs incurred. Accidents. Drops, knocks or even missing (forgot about it and left it behind. Then it gets stolen.) Even with CCTV and police reports, these missing items are usually financially compounded into lost cause under risk assessments. 

Involving the Police over matters of money

Unless the patient or his family were scammed or cheated into paying, the Police takes no further action against the ambulance service provider.

If this really were the case, this would require upmost teamwork so that the ruse isn’t given away and no one would use any ambulance service anymore! Why not just take a taxi!

Ambulance is a professional medical service that regardless do not want to see the death of patients and want to help as much as possible. Charges, fees and pricing are all listed and accessible information but for whatever reason (panic, no choice given, etc.) is no reason to rage and abuse the staff.

These potential administrative lapses would have been designed to be avoided if the SOP (Standard Procedures) were followed.

Verbal Abuse in the Ambulance World

As a frontline worker, ambulance officers are compelled to be more tolerant of abuse given the immense stress faced by the patient and their family members. As a potential hire, to be aware of verbal abuse and register that “Yes, it happens.” is a great start.

Next, recognising that if your limit has reached for the severity of inappropriate conduct, our ambulance friends will contact their friends in the Police to maintain peace and order. Otherwise don’t be afraid to escalate, report and if in Court, provide it as a testimony.

This post was last modified on November 29, 2020 11:18 pm

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