Are you an aspiring paramedic? This article contains information on how to become a paramedic in South Africa.
The role of a paramedic is vital in any society, as these professionals are often the first responders to emergencies, providing immediate medical care in life-threatening situations. In South Africa, becoming a paramedic is not only a rewarding  career choice but a calling to save lives. This article will provide a comprehensive guide on how you can become a paramedic in South Africa, covering the necessary education, training, and certification requirements. However, before delving into the process of becoming a paramedic in South Africa, it’s essential to understand the nature of the profession.
Who is a Paramedic?
Paramedics are medical professionals trained and certified to respond to emergencies and provide pre-hospital care to individuals in distress before they are taken to a hospital for the main treatment by doctors and nurses. Paramedics do not get the kind of education that nurses or doctors get and because of this, they do not qualify to offer full treatments to patients.
Duties of a Paramedic
Although Paramedics do not have full license to administer full treatment to patients, they are also saddled with a lot of responsibilities. Hence, the duties of a paramedic include:
- Responding to emergency calls
- Dressing wounds and injuries
- Providing patient care in hospitals and other medical facilities
- Driving and staffing emergency vehicles like ambulance
- Teaching and training members of the public to use first aid techniques correctly.
- Monitoring and administering medication, pain relief, and intravenous infusions
Summarily, they assess patients, administer critical medical interventions, and transport them to hospitals or healthcare facilities for further treatment. The role is sometimes physically and emotionally demanding, requiring quick thinking under pressure and a high level of medical knowledge. Due to the nature of the profession, some essential skills are required.
Different Levels in Paramedics
South Africa has different levels of care in which paramedics can perform, so, to become a paramedic in South Africa, you have to go for a level you want to work in while considering your qualifications.
These are the different levels of care which paramedics in South African can perform:
Basic Life Support (BLS)
Basic Life Support is one of the levels in paramedics in South Africa and is also known as Basic Ambulance Assistant (BAA). The paramedics in this level offer basic medical care to patients and their tasks include performing CPR, helping women in labor, stopping bleeding and other non-invasive procedures.
To work as a qualified Basic Life Support paramedic in South Africa, you will need to have a Matric, code 10 driver’s license, professional driving permit (PrDP) , and be registered with the Health Professional Council of South Africa. The BAA training typically takes less than a month to be completed. In other words, you need a short course to work at this level.
Intermediate Life Support (ILS)
Although a short course is also required to work in this level, the practitioners here perform higher tasks compared to those in BLS and it is also known as Ambulance Emergency Assistant (AEA). They can perform the tasks of the Basic Life Support paramedics but they are more focused on providing intermediate medical intervention. Their duties include providing IV therapy Bronchodilators, and chest compressions.
To become a paramedic with an Intermediate Life Support you need 1000 operational hours as BLS, pass the pre-course examination for entry into ILS course, then complete the four-month training course and register as ILS with the Health Professional Council of South Africa (HPCSA).
Emergency Care Technician
To become an EMT, you must go through 2 years of formal training. To be selected or accepted into the program, you must already be at ILS level then pass several other entrance exams, including a test paper and fitness test.
Advanced Life Support Paramedic (ALS)
This is the highest paramedic level in South Africa. To get to this level, you must be coming from EMT, be skilled in advanced airway management, IV drug therapy up to schedule 7 drugs, advanced midwifery, advanced resuscitation, aviation medicine, and marine medicine.
Paramedics at this level work across diverse healthcare settings due to the multidisciplinary skills they gain during training.
ALS paramedics in South Africa are highly requested worldwide due to the nature of training and skills. However, there have been massive changes in the way paramedics are trained.
You can become an ALS either through a short course or go for the full 4 year BTech degree program. The latter approach does not need you to start from BLS, then go through ILS and EMT before entering ALS. You can just enroll straight after high school.
Cost of Becoming a Paramedic in South Africa
According to Uni24 , it costs around R8,500 to R9,000 to become a paramedic in South Africa. This cost varies based on what you want to achieve.
Steps to becoming a Paramedic in South Africa
If you are in South Africa, here are steps you can follow as well as requirements to become a paramedic in South Africa:
1. Have Essential Skills
Becoming a paramedic in South Africa not only requires academic and technical skills but also certain personal qualities and attributes. This requirement will determine if you are really fit for the profession before going ahead to enroll for the course.
No doubt, attending an institution also helps one in building certain skills needed to succeed in the profession, but the first step in becoming a paramedic is to ensure you naturally possess the basic skills required before developing others while getting expert training.
This was the major reason I couldn’t go on to pursue a profession in Nursing. Years back as an undergraduate, I was cajoled to apply for a course in Nursing because a lot of friends and well-wishers believed I had what it took to become a Nurse. Ignorantly, I applied and got admission, but personally, I knew that wasn’t something I would love to do because, first, besides not having passion for it, I lacked the basic skills. I mean, how can a person who can barely stand the sight of blood and everything about hospitals succeed in the profession? Thankfully, I rejected the course and here I’m.
Skills of a Paramedic
So, bearing this in mind, some essential skills and traits for a successful paramedic include:
Emotional resilience: Paramedics often encounter distressing situations, so emotional resilience is crucial to cope with the challenges of the job.
Effective communication: Good communication skills are vital to interact with patients and their families, as well as to collaborate with other healthcare professionals.
Critical thinking: Paramedics must make quick, informed decisions in high-pressure situations. This is why critical thinking is a required skill in becoming a paramedic.
Physical fitness: The job can be physically demanding, so maintaining good physical fitness is essential.
Compassion and empathy: A genuine concern for the well-being of patients is at the core of the paramedic profession.
Sociability: Being a paramedic is not just a profession but a calling. Hence, you need to be highly social to be able to relate well with patients in distress.
If you possess these skills, the sky is beyond your limit as a paramedic. But then, it is also important to know
2. Meet the Educational Requirements
To embark on the journey of becoming a paramedic in South Africa, you must meet certain educational prerequisites. The most common entry point is to complete a National Senior Certificate (NSC) or an equivalent qualification, with a specific focus on science-related subjects.
A strong foundation in subjects like mathematics, physical science, and life sciences is advantageous.
To better prepare yourself for this journey, it is important that you possess some foundational medical care knowledge before you set out. In fact, this is a requirement to be accepted into a paramedic program in South Africa and become a paramedic. Therefore, you can take some free online first aid courses or you could enroll in some free online health and safety courses and get your certification when you complete a course.
Required Qualifications for Paramedics
To become a paramedic, you need any of the following courses:
- ECA – Emergency Care Assistant
- Diploma in Emergency Medical Care
- Bachelor of health sciences
ECA – Emergency Care Assistant
ECA is a one year course that qualifies one to be a paramedic in South Africa.
Diploma in Emergency Medical Care
This course takes a duration of 2 years to be completed within one year if you have already completed a course in ECO. You need to have the following scores to get a Diploma:
- English 60%
- Mathematics 50%
- Physical Sciences 50%
- Life Sciences 50%
- Minimum APS score of 26.
Bachelor of Health Sciences
Othe other hand, a Bachelor of health sciences takes a duration of 4 years to be acquired in the university. This equips paramedics with all the necessary skills to practice as Advanced Life Support.
3. Select the Right Training Institution
Once you have met the educational requirements, the next step is to choose an accredited training institution that offers paramedic programs. South Africa has various institutions that provide training for aspiring paramedics . Popular options include universities, colleges, and specialized paramedic training schools. It is crucial to ensure that the chosen institution is accredited by the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) to guarantee the program’s quality and recognition.
4. Registration with the HPCSA
To practice as a paramedic in South Africa, registration with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) is mandatory. This process involves submitting the necessary documentation, including your qualifications and proof of completed training programs. Once registered, you are officially recognized as a paramedic and can legally work in the field.a
5. Gain Practical Experience
In addition to formal education and registration, gaining practical experience is an integral part of becoming a paramedic. Many institutions offer clinical placements or internships where students can work alongside experienced paramedics. These practical experiences provide invaluable hands-on training and help prepare individuals for the demands of the job.
6. Continuing Professional Development
The field of emergency medical services is dynamic and constantly evolving. As a paramedic, it is essential to engage in continuous professional development to stay updated with the latest advancements in pre-hospital care. Attending workshops, seminars, and courses on relevant topics can enhance your skills and knowledge.
Becoming a paramedic in South Africa is a journey that requires dedication, education, and a strong commitment to saving lives. With the right educational foundation, skill, practical experience, and continued professional development, aspiring paramedics can make a significant impact on their communities.
The role of a paramedic is both challenging and rewarding, and those who choose this path play a crucial role in providing immediate health care and support to individuals in need. Whether you are just beginning your journey or considering advancing your career, the field of paramedicine in South Africa offers a diverse range of opportunities for dedicated healthcare professionals.
 Eze, T. (2022, September 21). How to become A paramedic in South Africa. Study Abroad Nations. https://studyabroadnations.com/how-to-become-a-paramedic-in-south-africa/
 Logger. (2022, October 6). How Much Does a Paramedic Course Cost in South Africa? Uni24.Co.Za. https://uni24.co.za/how-much-does-a-paramedic-course-cost-in-south-africa/?gclid=Cj0KCQjw-pyqBhDmARIsAKd9XIONK-nPM_ylpfyQ9_YjxCzk_V-IP86KZqTF3XSvzuDM_obi9nNQ-qUaAgsfEALw_wcB
 (N.d.). Indeed.com. https://za.indeed.com/career/paramedic/salaries