Author Identifier

Natalie Ciccone

ORCID : 0000-0002-1822-7217

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Health Education in Practice: Journal of Research for Professional Learning




School of Medical and Health Sciences / School of Education




Holmes, L., Ciccone, N., Cohen, L., & Brightwell, R. (2020). Preparing student paramedics for the mental health challenges of the profession by using the wisdom of the experienced. Health Education in Practice: Journal of Research for Professional Learning, 3(2), 39-53.


Given the significant mental health issues affecting our paramedics, there exists an urgent need to promote positive mental health and well-being among future cohorts of student paramedics. This study investigated the preparedness of student paramedics for the mental health challenges of the profession and explored the coping strategies used by experienced paramedics. The study was conducted in two parts. Part A comprised of two surveys which were developed and administered to 16 course coordinators and 302 students of the 16 accredited undergraduate paramedicine courses across Australia and New Zealand. The survey aimed to identify the perceived need for preparation within the curriculum. In addition, the anticipations, confidence and fears of student paramedics, Course Coordinators and paramedics were also collected as a means to explore the preparedness through self-evaluation, reflection and discussion. Part B included twenty semi-structured interviews with experienced paramedics, from Australia and New Zealand. The interviews were conducted to gain an understanding of their experiences and the mental health coping strategies they employed, as well as capture the advice they would give to student paramedics. Results from the interviews were validated by three focus groups comprised of six paramedics each, representative of the geographic spread. Results suggest there is widespread recognition for the need to include preparation for the mental health challenges of the profession, within accredited undergraduate paramedic courses, with 100% of course coordinators and 97% of students recognising this need. The interviews with paramedics provided valuable insights into the experiences and strategies used to aid the survival of the paramedics throughout their careers. Within the interviews, 70% of participants expressed a sincere love for the paramedic role, and 70% identified black humour as the coping strategy most used by themselves and colleagues. In addition, extensive advice was given to students based upon the paramedics’ lived experiences. This advice comprised of three themes; support, health and the profession. These findings were mapped against the aims of Australia’s current Mental Health Policy to provide evidence-based and policy-informed guidelines for the integration of positive mental health strategies into undergraduate paramedicine curricula. Preparing student paramedics for the mental health challenges of the profession could be advantageous. One way to achieve this is through the inclusion of key content within the undergraduate curriculum by utilising the relatable data collected on anticipation, confidence, fears and the advice offered by the veteran paramedics can be integrated. These lived experiences are highly credible and an opportunity for veterans to contribute positively to the future of paramedicine.



Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 License.