Pursue the career of your dreams. All Emergency Medicine training institutions and courses are certified by the Health Professions Council South Africa (HPCSA).

Becoming an emergency care practitioner in the pre-hospital setting requires intense study. It is also imperative to have passed maths, science and biology as matric subjects in order to be eligible.

“In the past, a short four-week course would qualify you as a Basic Ambulance Assistant,” says Ryan Wills, Training Manager: Emergency Medical Care. “After a year of working, you would then be able to study for up to six months to become an Ambulance Emergency Assistant. After gaining more experience in the field (up to two years) you would then be eligible to enrol in the Critical Care Assistance course which qualified you as an Advanced Life Support paramedic.”

However, as Wills adds, there has long been a push for emergency medical care study into the higher education space (university or technikon). In January 2017, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, then Minister of Health, published regulations that ended the Basic Ambulance Assistant and the Critical Care Assistant pre-hospital emergency care short course training, with effect from February 2018. Ambulance Emergency Assistant training ceased in January 2020.

As Dr Simpiwe Sobuwa, Head of the Department of Emergency Medical Care & Rescue, Faculty of Health Sciences, Durban University of Technology, says in a paper published in the Australasian Journal of Paramedicine this regulation signalled the end of an era of pre-hospital emergency care short courses that have been in existence since the early 1980s.

“In the emergency services profession, we are part of the larger healthcare system,” Wills says. “Being a paramedic is no different from any other allied health profession – there is a misconception that a paramedic has a second-rate medical qualification when compared to a nurse or doctor. That is not the case.”

At present, the National Emergency Care Education and Training (NECET) policy has a three-tiered Emergency Medical Services education and training framework that is aligned to the South African National Qualifications Sub-Framework. The entry-level emergency care qualification is now a one-year National Qualifications Framework (NQF) level 5, 120-credit Higher Certificate in Emergency Medical Care.

The next qualification is a two-year NQF level 6, 240-credit Diploma in Emergency Medical Care. A four-year NQF level 8, 480-credit professional Bachelor of Emergency Medical Care degree is currently the highest qualification.

Graduates of this degree programme are qualified as Emergency Care Practitioners and able to provide the highest level of pre-hospital emergency care available.

Furthermore, a paramedic can, after the completion of the Bachelor degree, pursue a Master’s degree and also a doctoral degree in Emergency Medical Care.

Contact the university of your choice for further information on costs as well as entrance requirements.

Wills adds that apart from rigorous study, paramedics need to be prepared to challenge themselves when it comes to physical fitness and rescue training. “Becoming an emergency services practitioner requires perseverance and commitment,” he says. “It’s definitely not a job; it’s a calling.”

Mediclinic offers the Diploma in Emergency Medical Care in Cape Town.