Explore the statement - A Paramedic is a health care professional operating autonomously and independently within the Australian Health Care System.
Paramedics have a complex identity within the Australian Health Care System. As the main provider of pre hospital care in todays’ society, paramedics have changed dramatically over the past 20 years, transitioning from ambulance drivers, to its current practitioner role. Although paramedics work alongside other emergency services and health care providers, they are not classified as health care professionals, therefore, working independently from these organisations and autonomously within their own state ambulance organisations. Through exploring the evolution of paramedic practice and their role as a health care provider, the current status of paramedics as a semi profession is explained along with what further development is needed before they become a recognised profession. In understanding how paramedics work autonomously within their own state based organisations, the concept of scope of practice and evidence based practice is explored. Finally by discussing how paramedics are independent, we establish paramedics’ role and position within the Australian Health Care System.
A paramedic is a health care professional
At present in Australia, paramedics are not classified as registered health care professionals. (Smith 2012) Instead, paramedics are widely regarded as semi-professionals with the potential to become a fully recognised profession in the near future. The definition of profession and the guidelines to become a recognised profession are not black and white. Professions Australia defined a profession as ‘a disciplined group of individuals who adhere to ethical standards and who possess special knowledge and skills in a widely recognised body of learning derived from research, education and training at a high level.’ (Allied Health Professions Australia 2008: 8) Whilst Wilinsky (1964) describes 4 key elements that are essential for the process of professionalization. These include; the implementation of a unified code of ethics and regulations, attaining professional licencing, registration and accreditation, the establishment of university study and education and the development of full-time occupation and formation of occupational territory.
Over the past 20 years the roles of paramedics have changed rapidly, with changes still occurring at the present. Paramedics have transitioned from ‘stretcher bearers’ knew as ambulance officers, to todays’ paramedics who are full time workers and are able to administer extensive pre hospital care. Along with the changes to the nature of the paramedics’ job, there has also been a significant change in the way paramedics are trained. ‘Training for paramedics has transitioned from on the job training provided by State and Territory Ambulance Services to vocational qualifications and more recently, higher education (University) sector qualifications.’(Williams, Brown, Onsman 2012: 6) These changes to higher education training and full time employment, has allowed for paramedics to move one step closer in becoming a recognised profession. A review of common professional traits suggests two main areas where the discipline falls short and it is that paramedics do not have ‘national registration and regulation resulting in professional self-control and accreditation’ and they do not nationwide qualifications that link from tertiary education to the paramedic services (Williams, Brown, Osman 2012: 1) Firstly, registration in the context of health care professionals, is the process of licensing and registering clinicians to practice at a uniform national standard of care. (Productivity Commission 2005 in Williams, Brown, Osman 2012: 7) Registration allows for consistency in education and training nationwide, and ensures paramedics work within the provisions of their scope of practice....