Emergency Medical Dispatcher

The Job and What's Involved

Emergency medical dispatchers are an important part of the ambulance service control team (also known as command and control). The job title and duties can vary slightly depending on the ambulance service (some services split this role into emergency call handlers and dispatchers).

As an emergency medical dispatcher, you would answer calls from the public and GPs requesting ambulance assistance. Whilst on a call, your duties could include:

  • Taking essential information from callers (exact location and details of what has happened).
  • Keeping the caller calm in order to get all the information needed for an ambulance response.
  • Giving advice to people facing life-threatening situations
    helping people to cope until an ambulance arrives.

You would also take urgent 999 calls.

As as result of a call, you would decide on the type of response needed and dispatch the nearest and most appropriate vehicle (for example, an ambulance, rapid response car, motorcycle or paramedic helicopter).

With experience, you could be involved in explaining complex procedures (such as resuscitation or delivering a baby) over the telephone to a caller.

You would usually work shifts, providing cover 24 hours a day, seven days a week (including public holidays).

You would work at a switchboard in an office.

Emergency medical dispatchers can start on between £13,600 and £16,800 a year. With experience, this can rise to around £18,500.

Team leaders can earn up to £34,000.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

You will find most jobs in the NHS, however, there are some opportunities to train and work in the armed forces.

Jobs can be advertised in the local and national press, and through Jobcentre Plus offices.

Education and Training

In general, to be an emergency medical dispatcher you will need:

- Good keyboard and computer skills
- GCSE's (A-C) in English, maths and science
- A typing qualification

Some employers will also prefer you to have:

  • Paid or voluntary experience in the health sector (contact the voluntary services coordinator or manager at your local NHS Trust for further advice).
  • The ability to speak a community language.
  • Map reading skills and knowledge of local geography.
  • An understanding of medical terminology.
  • Experience in a customer-focused role, such as call centre operator.
  • A recognised and up-to-date first aid qualification.

You should check directly with the ambulance service you wish to join, as each service can set its own entry requirements. For details of local services, check the NHS Choices website.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

As a new recruit you will receive in-house training, either classroom-based or on the job, which can take up to three months.

You will usually be trained in areas such as:

  • Using switchboards, radio communications and other equipment.
  • Recording information accurately.
  • The role of the ambulance and emergency crews.
  • First aid.
  • Prioritising calls.
  • Giving telephone advice.
  • Using computerised command and control systems.

Featured Job Guide - Ambulance Technician

Ambulance Technician

As an ambulance technician you would respond to accident and emergency calls, as well as a range of planned and unplanned non-emergency cases. You would usually work in a team, providing support to a paramedic during the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of patients at the scene of an incident and during hospital transfers.

You may use life saving skills as part of your day-to-day work.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

An emergency medical dispatcher needs

  • The ability to record and process information accurately.
  • A caring attitude.
  • Good problem solving skills.
  • A strong sense of responsibility.
  • Good organisational skills.
  • The ability to work as part of a team.
  • The ability to stay calm under pressure, think fast and use your own initiative.
  • A good telephone manner.
  • Strong communication and listening skills.

Your Long Term Prospects

With the appropriate skills and experience you could progress to control room supervisor or another management role, responsible for a team of dispatchers/call handlers. You could also move into a training position.

Working as a dispatcher would give you insight into the work of ambulance crew. However, to move into ambulance work, you would need to meet the same entry requirements as someone from outside the service.

Get Further Information

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

Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS),
Ambulance Headquarters,
Suite 30 Knockbracken Healthcare Park,
Saintfield Road, Belfast BT8 8SG
Tel: 028 9040 0999
Website: www.niamb.co.uk

London Ambulance Service,
Recruitment Centre, St Andrews House,
Devons Road, Bow, London E3 3PA
Tel: 020 7887 6638
Website: www.londonambulance.nhs.uk

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