Emergency Care

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Emergency care services are fundamentally important to people experiencing medical or trauma related emergencies.


IMPORTANT UPDATE: Visit the First Aid Provision at Alert Level 2 and 3 (Updated August 2020) page to understand processes due to COVID-19

IMPORTANT UPDATE: First Aid Training moves with the Alert Levels

Skills is the standard setting body for first aid, pre-hospital emergency care, first responders, and ambulance. These all involve emergency care for people experiencing medical or trauma related emergencies.

The difference between them is the level of knowledge and responsibility people hold. In first aid you are focused on caring for someone until help arrives; in ambulance, you are the help that arrives, and if hospitalisation is required, you are the caring for someone until you can get them to the next level of help.

First Aid

First aid is an important life skill that you should be encouraged to learn.

Many people take first aid courses as part of their employment. Many choose to take first aid to support their family and community.

If you find first aid something you enjoy, or if you’re looking to do a first aid refresher to keep your skills current, there are a range of options where you can further add to your skills as your confidence and experience grow.

There are many education providers that can support you in gaining your first aid certificate. For people who are interested in gaining unit standards while getting their first aid certificate, unit standards 6402, 6401, and 6400 are the standards for first aid. To award unit standards, education organisations must meet quality requirements set by industry and NZQA.

Education organisations with NZQA accreditation to train and assess first aid must continue to meet the Consent and Moderation Requirements (CMR). Click here to learn more about “First Aid as Life Skill: Training Requirements for Quality Provision of Unit Standard-based First Aid Training.”

Contracted providers for First Aid
If you are a Skills apprentice you may be required to do a recognised First Aid course as a part of your training. Skills has a number of contracted providers, who can assist you with this training. Click here to view providers

Pre-Hospital Emergency Care and First Responder


The Pre-Hospital Emergency Care (PHEC) unit standards were recently reviewed and a suite of new unit standards were developed as a result. The development involved broad consultation with the sector to ensure that the standards align to the qualification outcomes and meet current and future needs. The PHEC certificate had been made up of the unit standards 14473, 25411 and 25412. These have now been replaced with the ‘Provide basic emergency care certificate’ (the unit standard 29321).

The PHEC certificate was, and is still, a useful first step up from first aid. The skills and knowledge learnt through gaining unit standard 29321 will gain you the PHEC certificate and also contribute towards the next step – the New Zealand Certificate.

The domain Pre-Hospital Emergency Care is expiring, and unit standard 29321 is in the domain Emergency Care – First Response. This new domain lends its name to the next step up – the New Zealand Certificate in Emergency Care (First Responder) (Level 3).

There are many training providers that can support you to gain the PHEC certificate.

First Responder

The New Zealand Certificate in Emergency Care (First Responder) (Level 3) is the final step on the community pathway and the first step on the ambulance pathway. This qualification is useful to volunteers across many disciplines and to first responders in workplace settings.

The purpose of this qualification is to provide the New Zealand public with individuals who are confident and competent to intervene as an emergency care first responder and sustain life until handover to advanced medical care can occur.

This qualification is suitable for individuals who wish to build on the skillsets attained in first aid certificates and/or gain further skills and credentials in emergency care first response. It incorporates the skills and knowledge represented by the Pre-Hospital Emergency Care (PHEC) unit standards and their replacements.

Graduates will be capable of carrying out emergency care first responder roles with designated areas of responsibility and under broad guidance of an organisation.

While programmes leading to the qualification may not include unit standards, if they do, Skills supports the use of the standards in the Emergency Care – First Response domain. This domain provides 35 of the 40 credits needed. An appropriate ethics standard will also need to be included, and unit standard 28542 is one that could be appropriate.

There are training providers with approved programmes leading to this qualification if you are interested in gaining recognition for these skills.


If you’re interested in becoming an ambulance officer in New Zealand there is more than one way to get started.

Volunteer Ambulance Officers
Most people start out as volunteers working alongside ambulance officers in the field. As a volunteer, you’ll go through the same training as ambulance officers. If you’re interested in becoming a volunteer you will need to have a good driving record and be able to pass a police check. Volunteer ambulance officers are also required to commit to a number of shifts in a given time frame.

Ambulance Officers
Many people who become full-time ambulance officers already have the skills and experience required to take on the role, usually these have been gained by working in another ambulance service or by volunteering. When you’re applying to be a full-time ambulance officer, the criteria you’ll need to meet includes:

  • Holding a full class ‘1’ New Zealand drivers licence and having a good driving record
  • Completing a reference check and Police clearance
  • Completing a pre-employment medical examination and fitness check
  • Being a New Zealand citizen or have permanent resident status

The best way to kick off a career as an ambulance officer in New Zealand is to contact one of the following organisations.

  • St John – You can call 0800 ST JOHN (0800 785 646), visit your local office where they’ll take you through the recruitment process or visit www.stjohn.org.nz, and fill in the expression of interest form.
  • Wellington Free Ambulance (WFA)- For more information on becoming a volunteer with Wellington Free Ambulance you can call 04 499 9909 or visit www.wfa.org.nz

Qualifications and Industry Standards

Volunteer and full-time ambulance officers can achieve First Responder (Level 3) and Ambulance Practice (Level 5) qualifications while working with St John or Wellington Free Ambulance. Paramedic degree level qualifications are also available through a number of training providers. Ambulance New Zealand works with the sector to ensure New Zealand has safe, reliable and efficient ambulance services. They help to ensure that industry standards are developed and maintained.

In New Zealand health professions can be regulated under the Health Practitioners’ Competence Assurance Act 2003 if the government thinks a particular profession has the potential to pose a risk of harm to the health and safety of the New Zealand public. It’s possible ambulance officers and New Zealand Defence Force medics could fit into this category.

For further information about Ambulance New Zealand, industry standards, or registration visit www.ambulancenz.co.nz.