Mental health presentations are a rapidly growing proportion of cases seen by paramedics who are often at the frontline of care delivery. How paramedics perceive persons with mental illness is vital as their experiences in providing care can significantly impact decision-making. This article aims to investigate these paramedics' experiences and how these influence patient care.
This qualitative research study uses a narrative design where the researchers conducted two focus groups with operational paramedics (six paramedics), and the data recorded and transcribed. The team closely examined the data using thematic analysis to identify, analyse, and interpret patterns of meaning within transcribed data. After thematic analysis, a model for future practice was generated, which pictorially demonstrates the overlap of the common themes.
Five themes ultimately were identified that profoundly appeared to be important to the paramedics within the focus groups. Paramedics have varying experiences when caring for people with mental illness. They are empathetic towards the circumstances of the person with mental illness. They perceive that the stigmatisation of persons with mental illness occurs in some cases. Paramedics are also affected in their clinical decision-making by the training and education they have received and the profession's cultural influences.
The stigmatisation of people with mental illness is apparent in paramedic practice. Despite mental illness being a common presenting problem, paramedics feel underprepared and have difficulty in treating these people. The patients' behaviour can often be reflected in the conduct of paramedics. The impact of burnout due to high exposure to people with mental illness, especially in metropolitan areas, may lead to decreased levels of empathy and compassion.
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