Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Medical and Health Sciences

First Supervisor

Dr Lynne Cohen

Second Supervisor

Associate Professor Natalie Ciccone

Third Supervisor

Associate Professor Richard Brightwell


This study investigates the preparedness of novice (student) paramedics for the mental health challenges of the paramedic profession and identifies the coping strategies used by veteran paramedics to successfully meet these challenges. The lived experience of veteran paramedics is utilised to provide this important assistance.

Initially, two surveys were developed and administered to 16 course coordinators and 302 students of the 16 accredited undergraduate degree paramedicine courses across Australia and New Zealand, to identify the perceived need (for preparation) within the curriculum. In addition, the anticipations, confidence and fears of novice (student) paramedics, course coordinators and veteran paramedics were also collected as a means to facilitate the preparedness through self-evaluation, reflection and discussion.

Twenty semi-structured interviews with veteran paramedics, each with a minimum 15 years paramedic experience from across Australia and New Zealand, were conducted to gain an understanding of their experiences, mental health coping strategies and advice for novice (student) paramedics. Results from the interviews were validated by three focus groups comprised of six veteran paramedics each, representative of the geographic spread.

All 16 course coordinators and 302 novice (student) paramedics responded to the surveys. 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 semi-structured interviews with veteran paramedics provided valuable insights into the experiences and strategies used to aid the survival of the veterans throughout their careers. Within the interviews 70% of participants expressed a sincere love for theparamedic role, and 70% identified black humour as the coping strategy most used by themselves and colleagues.

In addition, extensive advice was given to novice (student) paramedics based on the veterans lived experiences. This advice focused comprised of three themes; support, health and the profession.

The findings of the study indicate that the preparation of novice (student) paramedics for the mental health challenges of the paramedic profession throughout the undergraduate curriculum could be advantageous. By utilising the relatable data collected on the anticipation, confidence and fears of novices, course coordinators and veterans, the advice offered by the veteran paramedics can be included within undergraduate paramedic curricula and delivered by sharing the lived experiences of the veteran paramedics. These lived experiences are highly credible and an opportunity for veterans to contribute positively to the future of paramedicine. Guidelines for their inclusion to the paramedic curriculum have been prepared to facilitate the knowledge and commence the development of conscious coping strategies by novice (student) paramedics during their learning phase.


Paper Location