As the population of Australia ages, the role and responsibilities of the healthcare network in our communities will increase. In Australia, 3.8million people are aged 65 and older which equates to approximately 15% of the total population, a number that is forecast to increase significantly. The need to have adaptable and experienced paramedics working with the aging population is vital.
Paramedic placements in residential aged care facilities are a relatively new and emerging source of clinical experience in the paramedic curriculum. However, as research is published and ever more quality placements are being completed, the benefits for the paramedic students, the residents and the organisations themselves are becoming apparent. It seems obvious to utilise the opportunities that aged care facilities have to complement and support paramedicine student learning.
Benefits of placements in a Residential Aged Care Facility (RACF)
There are many benefits of placements for students, communities, residents, and providers.
- Creating work-ready graduates who have had a broad range of clinical experiences.
- Understanding of the multidisciplinary team working with older people and the paramedic's role within that team.
- Insight into the aging process through engagement with residents and staff.
- Promotion of interpersonal therapeutic relationships, communication skills and compassion.
- Challenging myths and stereotypes of aged care.
- Broadening clinical skill base through interprofessional learning experiences, including:
- health assessment
- communication skills specific to older people (hearing and sight loss)
- manual handling of the older person
- decision to transport or to refer a patient
- promotion of appropriate clinical decisions based on the experience of the ageing process and older people.
For communities and residents
- It is estimated that 412,000 Australians live with dementia in 2021. Paramedics must understand the pathophysiology and prognosis of dementia and palliative care. As per the AIHW (2019), 71% of dementia hospitalisations in 2016/7 were of a high clinical complexity.
- One in seven Australians are aged 65 and older, and one in three older people live in an aged care facility.
- Improving and changing attitudes of future paramedics towards older people.
- Activities or projects that add value to current services or enhance service capacity.
- Improved health outcomes for older people.
- Enhanced organisational learning culture.
- Improved relationships between universities and staff.
- Professional development for staff.
- Enhanced visibility of the organisation for future health professionals.
- Inclusion of clinical, non-clinical and inter-professional learning.
- Exposure to, and experience with:
- manual handling for older people
- communication for those with low vision/hearing loss
- death of an older person.
- Reflection activities for the students.
- Role and scope of health professionals in RACF including paramedics.
A time commitment of 80 hours or over 14 days of clinical placement during the year.
After a placement, the students should be able to:
- describe the role of community-based and non-emergency health services in a range of environments
- demonstrate professionalism in a supervised clinical setting and articulate their role and tasks
- develop and demonstrate communication and team-building skills
- maintain an effective audit trail of placement through portfolio development
- demonstrate continual reflection on their practice
- describe the complexities of ageing
- explain how ageing affects the following body systems, including:
- brain and nervous system
- Basic anatomy, physiology and common pathophysiology
- Common prescription and non-prescription medications used
- Impacts of the above on healthy ageing
- Impacts of clinical presentation of illness/deterioration