Objectives This study explores the perceptions of paramedics regarding their role, education and training, organisational culture and interaction with allied professionals when attending suspected or known cases of mental illness. The study uses the South Australian Ambulance Service (SAAS) clinical data to establish a quantitative measure of workload in relation to cases that have been classified as psychiatric. It examines how paramedics perceive their use of the resources currently in place to support practice and their role when dealing with patients displaying mental illness.
Methods Data were sourced from the SAAS clinical database, a survey and three focus groups. One hundred and fifty surveys were distributed to career paramedic staff in both metropolitan and regional centres of South Australia with a response rate of 49.3% (n=74). The survey was analysed using descriptive statistics to compare paramedics' perceptions of workload and time-on-scene with the quantitative data from the SAAS Clinical Database. Thematic analysis was undertaken of the open questions from the survey and focus groups data.
Results The analysis of workload and time-on-scene showed significant differences between the SAAS database and paramedic perceptions. The survey and focus groups discussed themes in relation to paramedic practice: the role of paramedics in managing mental illness, education and training, organisational culture and interdisciplinary relationships.
Conclusion Mentally ill patients comprise a growing proportion of the workload of paramedics. This descriptive and exploratory study identifies issues in relation to their perception of workload, education and training, organisational culture and their working relationships with other services. Further research is recommended to understand how these perceptions affect paramedic practice in this area.
Louise is currently a Research Higher Degree Candidate (PhD Candidate) within the School of Nursing & Midwifery at Flinders University, South Australia.
Julie Henderson is a Research Fellow in the discipline of Public Health at Flinders University, South Australia. Julie has a long standing interest in mental health issues.
Roberts, Louise and Henderson, Julie
"Paramedic perceptions of their role, education, training and working relationships when attending cases of mental illness,"
Journal of Emergency Primary Health Care:
3, Article 1.
Available at: http://ro.ecu.edu.au/jephc/vol7/iss3/1