Career advice

Opportunities for nurses in the ambulance service

Looking for a career change or new ways to test your skills? A role with the ambulance service could be for you.

Looking for a career change or new ways to test your skills? A role with the ambulance service could be for you 

An ambulance service may not be the most obvious career choice for nursing staff, but it can offer a wealth of opportunities.


Picture: Alamy

‘I enjoy the variety,’ says Jennifer Green, a paramedic clinical supervisor with South East Coast Ambulance Service, which employs 3,300 staff working in Kent, Surrey, Sussex and a small area in Hampshire.

The unexpected keep you interested

‘One minute you’re helping to deliver a baby, the next you’re dealing with a car accident, before giving advice to someone who’s at home feeling ill. Not knowing what you’ll walk through the door to find keeps it interesting.’

Other advantages include collaborating with other healthcare professionals, seeing immediate results, and feeling valued. As one nurse clinical supervisor said: ‘In all the jobs I’ve had, this one makes it possible for me to make the greatest difference to patients.’

The trust is now looking for nurses to work in one of their two emergency operations centres, in either Coxheath in Kent or Crawley in West Sussex. Managing 999 calls, the centres ensure the best outcome for patients, despatching ambulances when they are needed.

Among the roles on offer is a nurse clinical supervisor, a band 6 post supporting emergency medical advisers (EMA), the first point of contact for patients when they reach the ambulance service.

‘In the past, we’ve trialled mental health nurses and that’s worked well. It’s an exciting time to join the service’

Jennifer Green

‘Clinical supervisors help manage the volume of calls,’ explains Ms Green. ‘They give expert advice to make sure the patient has the most appropriate care from the beginning – whether that’s referring them to a GP, community service or sending an ambulance.’

Preferably, applicants should have at least two years post-registration experience, with a background in acute care – including A&E and intensive care – or a specialism, such as coronary care or paediatrics.

‘The trust is currently looking at how we use our specialist clinicians,’ says Ms Green. ‘In the past, we’ve trialled mental health nurses and that’s worked well. It’s an exciting time to join the service.’

In exchange, nurses can expect a comprehensive package of training. For the first nine weeks, new recruits learn all about the trust’s specific computer system, spend time with the EMAs and shadow other clinicians, with one-to-one mentoring. They also learn about NHS Pathways – a suite of hundreds of interlinked clinical questions that allow patients to be assessed over the phone, directing them to the care they need.

Trial for the right fit 

Learning how to triage and take a thorough patient history remotely are key aspects of the role. ‘While you’re not physically face-to-face with a patient, you’re working with them the whole time,’ says Ms Green. ‘Your history taking has to be on point. My own patient-centred skills have improved ten-fold.’

There is also career progression, with a lead nurse in post and a nursing structure, plus regular opportunities for professional development, tailored to the individual.

‘If you’re interested but unsure, come and spend some time with us and find out if it might be for you,’ says Ms Green.

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Lynne Pearce is a freelance health journalist

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