Extending the paramedic role in rural Australia: a story of flexibility and innovation

Rural Remote Health. 2012;12(2):1978. Epub 2012 Apr 12.

Abstract

Introduction: This article identifies trends in the evolving practice of rural paramedics and describes key characteristics, roles and expected outcomes for a Rural Expanded Scope of Practice (RESP) model.

Methods: A multiple case study methodology was employed to examine the evolution of rural paramedic practice. Paramedics, volunteer ambulance officers and other health professionals were interviewed in four rural regions of south-eastern Australia where innovative models of rural paramedic practice were claimed to exist. The research team collected and thematically analysed the data using the filter of a sociological framework throughout 2005 and 2006.

Results: The study found that paramedics are increasingly becoming first line primary healthcare providers in small rural communities and developing additional professional responsibilities throughout the cycle of care.

Conclusions: Adoption of the RESP model would mean that paramedics undertake four broad activities as core components of their new role: (1) rural community engagement; (2) emergency response; (3) situated practice; and (4) primary health care. The model's key feature is a capacity to integrate existing paramedic models with other health agencies and health professionals to ensure that paramedic care is part of a seamless system that provides patients with well-organized and high quality care. This expansion of paramedics' scope of practice offers the potential to improve patient care and the general health of rural communities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Allied Health Personnel / statistics & numerical data*
  • Australia
  • Community-Institutional Relations
  • Humans
  • Organizational Case Studies
  • Primary Health Care*
  • Professional Role
  • Rural Health Services*
  • Workforce