Comment

Board’s eye view - Paramedic challenge

As healthcare professionals know, there is a serious national shortage of paramedics. This is being addressed by increasing university places for paramedic students from around 15 to 50 a year.

As healthcare professionals know, there is a serious national shortage of paramedics. This is being addressed by increasing university places for paramedic students from around 15 to 50 a year.

This brings with it challenges for placement allocation and mentor support. Paramedic placements will have to be wider and broader to reflect the changing nature of practice, as paramedics now have many other options than simply ‘transport to hospital’.

These students are likely to spend longer in acute hospital departments, yet staff in these units are not always aware of the changing roles of paramedics, and are often unsure what tasks to allocate students.

Despite clear and documented learning outcomes from the Health and Care Professions Council, paramedic students are often left to undertake observations, undress patients, make tea and generally act as a spare pair of hands – which are all necessary tasks, but will not provide appropriate learning for these students.

Ideally, they should be working alongside senior clinicians to enhance their history taking and examination skills, experience triage, watch and learn in minor injury units, and assist in the resuscitation room to improve their skills in more challenging circumstances. This would improve their knowledge, skills and understanding and, in turn, enhance their future practice.

It is in the interests of every emergency department (ED) to support paramedic students’ learning in this way. With enhanced skills and knowledge, paramedics will be able to divert more patients from the ED, relieving pressure from rising patient attendance.

Only by working together can paramedics and other emergency care staff understand each other’s roles, making for more productive, collaborative working relationships that ultimately benefit the professions and patients.

About the author

Lorna McInulty is senior lecturer in paramedic practice at the University of Central Lancashire and member of the Emergency Nurse editorial advisory board.

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