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The changing field of paramedicine

20 Aug 2018

Did you know that the landscape of studying and working in the field of paramedic science is changing? It is estimated that job opportunities for paramedics and ambulance officers will increase by 11 percent by 2020[1]. USC’s Parent Lounge spoke with USC lecturer in Paramedic Science, Senior Lecturer, Dr Nigel Barr to learn about the changing reality of studying and working in this field.

What has changed in paramedicine?

This year, paramedicine is moving to become a registered health profession nationally, and will have to meet specific standards like nurses, doctors and midwifes. To become a paramedic, new candidates will need to have completed an approved program of study such as USC’s Bachelor of Paramedic Science. Dr Barr believes that this new requirement will have positive implications for up and coming professionals.

“Registration means that there is a widening scope for employment of paramedics—for example, they might in future be employed to work within hospitals or GP clinics, not just by state paramedic organisations,” said Dr Barr. “We don’t really know what the job might look like in five years.”

Dr Barr also says changes in the population and to the provision of healthcare means that paramedics are now doing more in-depth assessments and making referrals to other health care providers.

“We have seen significant changes, especially in the last three to five years,” said Dr Barr. “An ageing population means there is a greater need for health services and we are now treating more patients with chronic health conditions in a community setting, rather than the hospital being the first port of call.

“The job of paramedics is becoming more complex, so we now train our students in advanced health-care assessment to provide a comprehensive first response,” he said.

What are the benefits of being a paramedic?

Dr Barr said working on the front lines of emergency care as a paramedic is a rewarding, challenging career where professionals can both save lives and improve health outcomes.

“As a paramedic you know how likely it will be that you will be responding to a certain type of medical condition or illness, but you still never know what each day will bring,” said Dr Barr. “We are autonomous problem-solvers who get to work in such a broad range of settings.”

What’s different about USC’s approach?

Dr Barr says there are many elements of USC’s School of Paramedicine and its program that means it is leading the field to meet the changing needs of this profession.

“One of the many strengths of USC’s programs is that we use the latest technology such as our CAVE visualisation studio, one of only four such facilities in the world, to simulate response scenarios to small groups of students,” said Dr Barr. “These simulations are designed to build the knowledge and confidence students need to progress to on-road work.

“We also have a team of staff with a wonderful depth and diversity of experience and knowledge,” he said. “We all have postgrad qualifications and research experience but many of us have worked in other areas of the health sector such as nursing, midwifery, mental health and urban search and rescue as well as paramedicine.”

About Dr Nigel Barr

Dr Nigel Barr has extensive experience in healthcare, emergency medical services and education sectors. Nigel was formerly an intensive care paramedic in several ambulance jurisdictions, and Senior Operations Officer (Clinical and Education Services) for Rural Ambulance Victoria. His roles have encompassed the provision of intensive-care paramedicine, clinical governance, professional leadership, teaching and research.

Nigel has completed a PhD exploring infection prevention and control in paramedic-led healthcare. He has a considerable research publication history and is a member of the ANZCP research committee.

[1] Australian Government Department of Employment – 2016 Occupational Projections to November 2020

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