Why Mental Health Care Placements for Paramedic students?
Mental health presentations now encompass a large and rapidly growing proportion of a modern paramedic’s patient load. Current statistics reveal that responses involving mental health care total approximately 30-35% of an Australian paramedic's daily workload.
In a literature review examining Australian paramedic education, improved mental health education was identified as an emerging area of need particularly given that dealing with cases involving mental illness “is a significant component of a paramedics workload and increasing”.
The growing body of literature and research into mental health care education and training for paramedics has demonstrated that historically and currently gaps exist. Research in this field strongly suggests that translation into practice is difficult and the amount and the depth of education in the area of mental health remains limited.
Addressing skill gaps
Australian paramedics feel underprepared and underqualified to deal appropriately with mental health patients. Paramedics feel that “the limited amount of time devoted to mental health and alcohol and other drug problems in pre-service employment curricula was disproportional to the frequency of encounters with patients with these problems in paramedics’ day-to-day practice”.
Presently there is research being undertaken at Charles Sturt University examining these issues and how to address the gaps to meet the growing requirement for paramedic skills and literacy in mental health care. One of the strongest themes emerging from these studies is the need for specific mental health care workplace learning experiences for paramedic students to achieve the acquisition of the necessary skills for modern practice.
Based on the literature and the evidence of early pilot program evaluation, Charles Sturt is embarking on this proactive plan to address this issue within the broader national paramedic student WPL model. We are looking to develop quality innovative workplace integrated learning opportunities for our students which we envisage will provide the necessary skills and education in mental health care.
The planned outcome is that we will produce paramedic graduates who will serve the community more appropriately resulting in improved patient outcomes in the field of mental health care.
Benefits of placements in mental health care environments
There are many benefits of placements for students and providers.
- Provide students with experiences that enhance their understanding of working interprofessional, particularly in mental health care environments.
- Development of skills for translation to practice in a changing pre-hospital environment.
- Creating work-ready graduates who have had a broad range of clinical experiences.
- Improve communication and interpersonal skills both interprofessionally and with clients.
- Build student knowledge of mental health and community-based mental health services.
- Practical development and utilisation of skills in diagnosis, assessment, intervention, and referral.
- Develop the necessary specialist clinical skills required for practice
- Increased knowledge and understanding of working within an ethical framework in a variety of community settings.
- Practical application of mental health theories.
- Strengthen students' ability to work with people from diverse backgrounds.
Benefits for providers
- Expansion of multidisciplinary approaches to client care through the enhancement of interprofessional networks.
- The creation of strong collaborative business, community, interdisciplinary, and educational networks.
- Contribution toward an evidence-based approach and innovation in mental health care.
- Support of workplace learning through involvement in student education.
- Influencing future workforce dynamics.
- Contribution toward improved patient outcomes in mental health care.
- Opportunities for joint research and interactive sharing of knowledge and resources with Charles Sturt.
- Advanced knowledge of current paramedic practice.
- Activities or projects that add value to current services or enhance service capacity.
- Enhanced organisational learning culture.
- Enhanced visibility of the organisation for future health professionals.
- Collaborative approach toward achieving the goals of the mental health action plan
- Positive media promotion and awareness.
- Positive client perception through service innovation, initiation, and a proactive approach.
A time commitment of 80 hours or over 14 days of clinical placement during two placement blocks scheduled during the year.
Upon successful completion of the related WPL subject, students should be able to:
- undertake patient care activities related to the role of the paramedic as per clinical record book objectives
- complete an accurate health assessment and effectively manage out-of-hospital patients
- explain/demonstrate the concepts of advanced life support, advanced airway management and drug administration
- maintain an effective audit trail of their own paramedic practice
- continually reflect on and improve their practice.
The related WPL subject will cover the following topics:
- The assessment and management of patients with acute clinical presentations.
- The assessment and management of patients with chronic clinical presentations.
- Problem-solving approaches with patients with simple and complex health issues.
- The knowledge and clinical application of basic life support, advanced airway management techniques and drug administration.