Is the Australian paramedic discipline a profession? A national perspective

Brett Williams
January 2012

Background Over the past century the Australian paramedic discipline has gone through a dramatic evolution; moving from its origins of an ambulance driver to its current practitioner role as an integral member of the Australian health care system. However, at present the Australian paramedic discipline is not considered a full profession by the national or state governments. This begs the further question, how does the paramedic discipline within Australia view itself? Objectives This paper has two objectives: 1) To examine whether or not the Australian paramedic membership views itself as a profession, and 2) if it does not regard itself as such, whether the paramedic community wants to be considered a full profession within Australia. Methods 3800 questionnaires were posted to all Australian College of Ambulance Professionals (ACAP) members around Australia. An investigation of attitudes towards professionalisation were investigated using an 8-item paper-based self-report questionnaire using a 5-point Likert scale (1=Strongly Disagree to 5=strongly agree). Findings A total of 872 paramedics (23 % response rate) returned completed questionnaires. The responses indicated that, broadly speaking, the Australian paramedic membership does not consider itself a recognised profession, furthermore, the Australian membership indicated a desire for paramedics to be recognised as a profession. Conclusions Given that first, the paramedic discipline does not presently view itself as a full profession and second, the paramedic discipline wants to become recognised as a profession. The study identified a set of underpinnings of professional paramedic practice; including professional autonomy, national accreditation for paramedic education programmes, and the development of a unique body of knowledge.

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