College to train paramedics to degree level

Bachelor's programme set up in partnership with Abu Dhabi Police sees 43 students signed up already

ABU DHABI // Swift action by paramedics can save lives, and a new programme has been established to give more people the specialised skills needed to do the job. The Higher Colleges of Technology will train more than 40 new paramedics for Abu Dhabi Police, with the students, aged between 20 and 24, employed by the force during the four-year bachelor's programme.

Nathan Puckeridge, the paramedic faculty co-ordinator in the health sciences division, said: "Their training will be equivalent to that of an intensive-care paramedic in Australia, but they get the bachelor's degree in the process." At a careers fair at the college yesterday, 27 students signed up to be in the training partnership's first cohort. They join 10 men and six women who were already aboard.

"There is a big need for female paramedics but there is a big need all round," Mr Puckeridge said. "The problem is finding the right people. Even after these [students] graduate, there will still be a huge gap." He attributed the shortage to a range of factors that have put more pressure on the service, including the country's rapidly growing population and the rising number of chronic diseases such as diabetes.

Mr Puckeridge, a trained paramedic from Australia, hopes the programme will expand to other emirates. One of the challenges the profession faces, he said, is that each emirate has its own training and regulations. Many of the students who signed up, he said, did not know what a paramedic did, but once they joined professionals in the field and saw what was involved, they realised the benefit they could bring to their communities if they underwent training.

Emiratis are under-represented in the medical profession. Around four per cent of nurses are Emirati and fewer than 10 per cent of doctors are nationals. Zahra Mohammed, who began the course in 2008 as part of a trial group sent by the police, originally wanted to study medicine but when she did not get the necessary grades, she decided to explore other career avenues in the healthcare sector. The 21-year-old will be part of the team helping to recruit fellow Emiratis for the coming term.

"It's an interesting job; each day is different," she said. "You need Emiratis to get out of their box, not just sitting in an office, but trying something new. It's an important job and we need locals to show their faces in this profession."