The aim of this study was to provide a snapshot of Australian remote and industrial paramedics’ patient clinical presentations, experience with physician consultations and options for patient transport to tertiary care.
This exploratory, cross-sectional descriptive study employed a purpose-built online survey. Participants were 78 paramedics working in Australian rural and remote industrial settings recruited in 2015 using web-based, respondent-driven sampling. In addition to a series of closed ended questions, respondents were asked to recall the number of times they encountered specific clinical presentations during the past year. Data were analysed using descriptive statistics and modes were calculated for ordinal data associated with clinical presentations.
The traumatic presentations that participants recalled encountering at least 10 times the preceding year included back pain (39.7%), minor lacerations (38.5%), joint (36.4%) and hand (30.8%) injuries. Respondents selected headache (64.1%), nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea (52.6%), respiratory infections (50%), ear, nose or throat problems (43.6%) and localised infections or rash (39.7%) as the most common medical presentations. Of the respondents, 38.4% managed patients with mental health presentations a minimum of six times in the preceding year, and 45.3% treated at least one patient in cardiac arrest. While 94.8% of participants said topside support was available, over half described consulting physicians infrequently and if they did, it was typically by telephone. Most respondents (61%) indicated that their worksite was located over 100 km from a hospital.
Survey findings indicate that paramedic participants recall encountering a wide range of clinical presentations and managing low acuity illnesses more commonly than traumatic injuries. Most respondents were located at least 100 km from the nearest hospital and although almost all had access to topside support, over half stated they consulted physicians infrequently.
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