From stretcher-bearer to paramedic: the Australian paramedics’ move towards professionalisation


ambulance officer

How to Cite

Williams B, Onsman A, Brown T. From stretcher-bearer to paramedic: the Australian paramedics’ move towards professionalisation. Australasian Journal of Paramedicine [Internet]. 2019Jan.23 [cited 2023Feb.6];7(4). Available from:


Over the last one hundred and twenty years, the Australian paramedic sector has changed dramatically; influenced and informed by a range of social, health, economic, professional, and political forces. However, there has been little reflection of those changes in either the perception of the discipline as a profession or the manner in which its membership is trained, socialised, and educated. This paper explores the links between professionalisation and education in the paramedic field. Paramedics are currently at best seen as a 'semi-profession' and a great deal of discussion about whether the discipline actually wants to achieve full professional status exists. Comparisons will be made with the professions of nursing and physiotherapy, outlining how and why they progressed from a semi-professional status to a fully recognised profession, culminating in a discussion about which characteristics the paramedics discipline as yet lacks. A review of common professional traits suggests three areas where the discipline falls short: 1) the delineation of its professional compass, especially in relation to extant recognised cognate (and competitive) professions, 2) National registration and regulation resulting in professional self-control and accreditation, and 3) Higher Education and the development of a unique body of professional knowledge. Finally it will be argued that the recognition and addressing of the gaps by the relevant policymakers, regulators, employers and academics will lead to the formulation of strategies that are most likely to result in professional status for paramedics in Australia.