Critical Incident Technique – A useful method for the paramedic researcher’s toolkit


emergency service
critical incident technique

How to Cite

Mulholland P, Barnett T, Woodroffe J. Critical Incident Technique – A useful method for the paramedic researcher’s toolkit. Australasian Journal of Paramedicine [Internet]. 2015Aug.2 [cited 2023Jan.30];12(3). Available from:



Critical Incident Technique (CIT) is a research method which has been used to investigate activities across many fields including psychology, medicine, nursing, counselling, education, learning and marketing. This paper explores this potential by investigating the use of CIT as a research method for the paramedic and pre-hospital environment.


A search using the term ‘Critical Incident Technique’was conducted using the University of Tasmania ‘Megasearch’ facility. Some 2935 papers were then filtered to include one or more of the terms ambulance, pre-hospital, paramedic, transport, retrieval, emergency medical service/s (EMS), emergency medical technician/s (EMT) and emergency. Using these terms, four research articles used CIT as a methodological approach. Searching CINAHL, SCOPUS and MEDLINE via PubMed individually, contributed one further article. A further search with the same terms was conducted using ‘Google Scholar’, and identified a further seven relevant papers.


Although Critical Incident Technique has been used as a research method since 1954, its use in the examination and study of paramedic work (pre-hospital care) was limited and quite new. An analysis of the articles indicated five distinct themes relating to how CIT was used: physical dimensions of job performance (equipment and technology), teamwork and communication (how team members work and communicate), psychological dimensions of work (how paramedics felt about their work), student learning and experience and patient care.


CIT is a research method that has been used effectively to inform various psychological and physical dimensions of paramedic work. Paramedic work is about caring for those who require pre-hospital care, and further consideration of the application of CIT in pre-hospital research may increase our understanding of this work to improve service delivery and patient outcomes.


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