Macartan Hughes, a member of the National Ambulance Service (NAS) Paramedicine Directorate, outlines the “dramatic changes” he has seen in the level of training programmes for ambulance service personnel over the decades, with plans in the pipeline to recommence a community paramedic programme and the future introduction of a critical care paramedic course.
The current annual target for student paramedic intakes is between 175 and 196 with an additional intake of up to 60 EMT students per year. In the coming years the number of recruits to be trained is planned to increase significantly with the NAS staff complement planned to double by 2027.
Initially the programme was a National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ) Level 7 Diploma but since 2019 it has become an NFQ Level 8 Bachelor of Science (Honours) programme. The four-year Bachelor of Science (Hons) Paramedic Studies programme is compressed into three calendar years, which is made possible because the student paramedics are on work placement; hence there is not a three-month summer break or any breaks at Christmas and Easter, according to Macartan Hughes.
“The programme is taught principally through the NAS College in the early stages, within the NAS operational environment and remotely through UCC’s online Teaching and Learning platform. A total of 22 paramedics employed by NAS graduated from the BSc Paramedic Studies course and were awarded their degrees in October 2022,” notes Hughes.
An Advanced Paramedic programme is now being offered at MSc (Master of Science) level. UCC supports the NAS College in accrediting both the paramedic and NAS advanced paramedic programmes. In addition, UCC’s School of Medicine also delivers what Hughes describes as “core elements” of the paramedic programme, particularly during the second and third year of studies, while UCC also provides further specialist input into the advanced paramedic programme.
Hughes explains that the wheels have also been put in motion on a critical care paramedic course. “The programme will be developed in line with standards laid out by the Pre-Hospital Emergency Care Council. At present those standards are in the early development stage so it’s hard to say when the programme will fully commence.”