Evolution of emergency medical services in Saudi Arabia

Talal AlShammari, Paul Jennings, Brett Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


Aim: The purpose of this study was to provide an overview of the evolution of emergency medical services (EMS) in Saudi Arabia to describe its history, organisational service providers, governance, EMS statistics and the educational development of the field with the disparity of educational approaches. Background: The EMS is an important part of the healthcare system as it is often the first point of contact for medical emergencies. The EMS in Saudi Arabia has seen a number of positive changes over the past decade, some of which include the development of several university and college programs dedicated to teaching EMS, the evaluation of the profession from a post-employment first aid model into a pre-employment bachelor's degree model, the generous governmental scholarship grants overseas and the official accreditation of EMS as a profession. It has been approximately nine years since the first EMS bachelor's degree programs were developed in Saudi Arabia, some of which were directly adopted from universities in developed countries such as Australia. Despite these positive changes, the current EMS system in Saudi is faced with many challenges, both organisational and educational, including the lack of research, community involvement, the educational status of practitioners and the inconsistencies of statistics relating to response time and rate of transfer. This paper describes the history of EMS in Saudi Arabia with a specific focus on identifying the disparity in the educational outcomes and approaches adopted by colleges and universities in the Kingdom. Methods: The data utilised for the research of the EMS profession in Saudi Arabia were obtained from the literature using search tools such as MEDLINE, Google Scholar, Saudi health journals, Saudi university websites, government reports and statistics. Conclusion: The EMS profession in Saudi Arabia has advanced greatly in the past 12 years. Yet there is still scope for considerable improvement, especially with regards to developing empirically identified core competencies for EMS bachelor's degree graduates. There is also the need for providing more outreach to the public to improve awareness of current services and available training, building more collaboration between the industry employers and academic institutions and investing further in EMS research through the development of Saudi-based postgraduate master's and PhD EMS degrees. This paper is the first to provide an overview of the EMS service in Saudi Arabia, for institutions and researchers to gain a better understanding of the history and current standing of the service from an educational and operational perspective.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Emergency Medicine Trauma & Acute Care
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Emergency medical services
  • EMS core competencies
  • Paramedics
  • Saudi Arabia

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