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What are the clinical practice experiences of specialist and advanced paramedics working in emergency department roles? A qualitative study

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Aim: Little is known about paramedics who have left the ambulance service to work in emergency departments (EDs). This study sought to explore the lived experiences of paramedics working in specialist/advanced ED roles, focusing on role transition, influences on effective clinical practice and perceptions of role optimisation. A secondary aim of the study was to make recommendations on the future development of specialist/advanced ED roles for paramedics.

Methods: This was a qualitative study utilising descriptive phenomenology to collect and describe the lived experiences of participants via semi-structured interviews. The final sample comprised three emergency care practitioners (ECPs), three student ECPs and two advanced clinical practitioners (ACPs), all Health and Care Professions Council registered paramedics. Interview data were transcribed verbatim and analysed using inductive thematic analysis.


Transition to the ED involves significant adjustment to a new clinical environment, responsibilities and decision making.

Pre-hospital physical assessment and history taking skills, and experience of autonomous working are pertinent enablers to effective practice within the ED.

Difficulties in accessing medication in the ED emerged as a significant barrier to daily practice that could affect the patient experience and influence perceptions of sub-optimal working.

Misconceptions by ED staff regarding paramedic competencies could lead to role confusion and make inter-professional working difficult.

Opportunities exist for future role expansion into areas such as resus, majors and paediatrics within the ED environment.

Conclusions: While role transition to the ED represents a turbulent period for paramedics, elements of pre-hospital paramedic practice transfer directly into ED roles and contribute to effective practice. Participants found that they were accepted and supported to work in the ED setting and spoke positively of future role expansion. A lack of access to medicines presents a significant barrier to current clinical practice and a disparity in practice between paramedics and their nursing counterparts. The change in legislation to allow independent prescribing for advanced paramedics will address some of these issues, but interim improvements are required to extend existing arrangements to paramedics, improving the quality and safety of care they provide and ultimately the patient experience.
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Keywords: advanced clinical practice; advanced clinical practitioner; emergency care practitioner; emergency department; paramedic; prescribing

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2019

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