Paramedic education is changing in Australia from a post-employment model in which in-house training is provided by state-based service providers to pre-employment Bachelor degree education in universities. Little is known about how well prepared final year paramedic students nearing the end of their university course perceive themselves to be to enter the workforce. The objective of the study was to investigate perceptions of preparedness for the workforce of final year paramedic students at Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia.Methods
A survey was conducted with final year paramedic students in their last semester at Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia. The survey focussed on eight dimensions relating to paramedic practice: theoretical skills, clinical skills; practical skills; interpersonal skills; communication with colleagues and other professionals; coping skills; lifelong learning; and ethics and legal responsibilities. Part 1 of the survey required participants to choose from six possible responses on how well they believe their paramedic course has prepared them in relation to 64 statements. Part 2 consisted of 5 open- ended questions. Data from part 1 was analysed to find the mean ‘preparedness scores’ on the 8 dimensions of paramedic practice. Responses from part 2 of survey were transcribed and imported into NVivo8, where each part of the questions were analysed and grouped into themes.Results
Response rate was 14% (n=23). Respondents felt ‘somewhat adequately’ to ‘adequately’ prepared for the workforce. Responses to Part 2 indicated a range of perceptions in relation to preparedness to enter the paramedic workforce, ranging from feeling unprepared to put knowledge into practice, prepared in some aspects but not in others, through to feeling prepared but with a realisation that there would be much to learn on the job. Respondents comments provide paramedic educators with some clear ideas about what final year students value in terms of preparing them for practice: whilst respondents valued the clinical practice opportunities they had had, they wanted more clinical placements with more variety, for example placements in different areas of healthcare.Conclusion
This small survey provides paramedic educators with some clear ideas about what final year students value in terms of preparing them for practice. As Australian paramedic education moves from a post-employment training model to a pre-employment model, further consideration is needed of how courses will best address the development of clinical and practical skills of students and meet the requirements of ambulance service employers. Collegiate dialogue between employers, educators and students will assist in addressing this.