How to become a Search and Rescue Medic

A career as a Search and Rescue Medic offers the opportunity to provide medical care and recovery in the most unpredictable environments, and can be hugely rewarding. Explore what’s required to take on the role.

What is a Search and Rescue Medic/Paramedic?

Search and Rescue Medics or Paramedics are experts in emergency response and recovery. They provide medical assistance to, and remove victims from, dangerous and unpredictable situations. 

When you think of a Search and Rescue Paramedic, you probably imagine them abseiling off a vertical cliff, or making a rescue from a helicopter flying low over the ocean. While these situations can definitely be part of the job, search and rescue skills can be required in a whole range of scenarios.

Search and Rescue Medics have been at the frontline of some of the world’s most devastating disasters which includes natural disasters like extreme flooding, bushfires, earthquakes and avalanches. They also play a pivotal role in urban rescues involving collapsed buildings, as well as mining and military rescues. 

They are skilled at providing medical care and executing rescues within complex environments, terrain and structures. Often the first on the scene, they must be able to provide all the medical care and reassurance of a registered paramedic, as well as the specialist care their patients may need (for burns or smoke inhalation, for example) while navigating rapidly changing environments.

What industries and situations does a Search and Rescue Medic work in?

Search and Rescue Medics can apply their skills to a wide range of industries and situations, including:

  • Urban search and rescue: dealing with structural collapses
  • Natural disasters: earthquakes, landslides, bushfires, floods
  • Military search and rescues, including trench and confined spaces
  • Energy and infrastructure industry, including underground or offshore mines, wind farms

Typical job duties of a Search and Rescue Medic

A Search and Rescue Medic or Paramedic will be expected to have several years experience and be able to undertake all the standard duties of the role, as well as specialist tasks relevant to the environment and industry you are working in.

Search and Rescue Medics may need to undertake:

  • Vertical rescues via abseil or helicopter
  • Remote area rescues
  • Road crash treatment and rescue
  • Water rescues
  • Rescues within confined spaces
  • Treatment for burns and smoke inhalation
  • Assessing and treating conditions that affect survival such as hypothermia, hyperthermia, trauma and acute or chronic medical conditions
  • Maintenance of equipment
  • Chemical, biological and radiological procedures
  • CBRIE – Risk assessments / procedures
  • Recovery/retrieval duties (retrieving bodies)
  • Coordination of search teams and search areas
  • Radio communications
  • Location techniques for finding distress beacons

You will also be required to work closely and collaborate with other rescue teams and humanitarian organisations.

What working as a Search and Rescue Medic could look like

Hear from Erin about the work she undertook during the Australian bushfires of 2019/2020 through the State Emergency Rescue Service (SES).

How to become a Search and Rescue Medic

Before specialising as a Search and Rescue Medic, you’ll need to have a number of years experience as a registered Paramedic under your belt.

Studying the HLT51020 – Diploma of Emergency Health Care with Australian Paramedical College can help you build the foundational knowledge and practical skills you need to get on the pathway to university to become a Paramedic. With a few years on-road experience, you can continue your studies and specialise in search and rescue.

It’s worth noting that for some roles, you may need to have extensive experience and/or specialist skills related to the industries and environments you plan to work in. This could include: vertical rescue, confined space/trench rescue, advanced driving, navigation, etc.

Ready to learn more?

Take a closer look at our courses and have a chat to one of our friendly Course Advisors to find out how APC can help you create that amazing career you’ve always dreamed of.