Paramedic numbers in the north-east will be boosted thanks to a new course starting at Robert Gordon University.
For the first time in Scotland, an undergraduate course is being introduced at five Scottish universities in a bid to create more opportunities for school leavers.
Previously paramedics have been given on-the-job training and study for a Diploma in Paramedic Practice at the Scottish Ambulance Academy (SAA).
Now, much like other healthcare professionals, they have to go through higher education to qualify.
It is hoped this major change will bolster workforces in the north-east.
Concerns have previously been raised about the shortage of ambulance cover in Grampian and the Highlands, with under-pressure staff drafted in to cover for colleagues as they transfer patients elsewhere or take sick leave.
Robert Gordon University has recruited Scotland’s leading paramedic to help run the course, which starts in September.
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Paul Gowens has been appointed a visiting professor and he will support delivery of the BSc paramedic practice course.
He said: “There is a transitional role of paramedics now with this university degree and training is changing. The students will now be far more involved in the research and development in a unique role.
“They will be educated to a UK-wide standard, much in line with the nursing sector, so this a step forward for the profession.
“It is a national evolution of the sector and will provide very high-levels of education.”
Mr Gowens is a paramedic consultant tasked with leading clinical-development transformation across the Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS).
Alongside RGU, there will be courses at Stirling, Queen Margaret University, Glasgow Caledonian University and University of Highlands and Islands. RGU aims to recruit 56 students.
A Scottish Ambulance Service spokeswoman said: “The programme will be educating new generations of paramedics who will enter the workforce armed with the latest skills and trained to the highest standards.
“These changes not only increase our capacity for training more paramedics, helping us meet predictions for future demands of patients, but they support the delivery of integrated health and social care.”