Professional development needs of qualified ambulance paramedics in Victoria

2017-02-15T04:53:32Z (GMT) by Gent, Philippa
Continuing professional development (CPD) is a well-reported essential component of clinical practice for many health professions. There is however little known about professional development needs for paramedics. This research project reported upon the current practices, challenges and future direction of professional development for qualified paramedics in Victoria, Australia. A series of focus groups were undertaken, in order to identity the paramedics emerging professional development needs, and to determine if these needs change with the development of clinical experience. To ascertain if experience impacted upon professional development needs, purposeful and sequential sampling was employed to recruit participants into specific focus groups. The focus groups selected represented the various levels of clinical qualification and experience within the Victorian ambulance service in an attempt to yield the most informative results. Semi-structured interview questions were utilised to encourage discussion regarding the various practices and suggested future direction of professional development for Victorian paramedics. Participants reported upon the barriers and enablers that they believe impacted upon their uptake of professional education. Participants reported strong practice of 'on the job' learning but poor uptake of ambulance service provided structured education. Additionally, participants demonstrated high levels of motivation to improve their clinical practice and suggested a number of opportunities for improving the delivery and uptake of professional education. Among the explored improvement strategies was the use of case presentations to enhance clinical knowledge and promote education amongst peers. Additionally participants identified a requirement for the establishment of a formalised feedback process between the receiving hospitals and paramedics. Participants believed this would enable transfer of clinical information that would support paramedics' professional development. One highly polarised suggestion was the utilisation of hospital ramping time for paramedics to undertake professional development. Future research and a trial period is recommended to determine the uptake and sustainability of professional development during periods of ramping. The findings of this research project provide some insight into the current practices and future directions of professional development for Victorian paramedics.