Today in Australia, university degree programs provide the education pathway into the paramedic profession reflecting a more than 50-year process of transition from on-the-job first aid training. The formal organisation of paramedic education began in the early 1960s with the establishment of ambulance service training centres. The factors that contributed to this transition are poorly described when compared with that of paramedics in other parts of the world such as the United States and England. The history of Australian paramedic education is important to capture for the benefit of the profession in Australia and to situate it within a global context of modern emergency medical services. This paper examines the peer reviewed and grey literature to chart the transition of Australian paramedic education from vocational to higher education and uncovers signposts of change leading to this transition.
Following a systematic search of MEDLINE and CINAHL Plus databases, the university library collection, Google and the websites of Australian ambulance services, Paramedics Australasia (PA) and the Council of Ambulance Authorities (CAA), 31 reports, 12 journal articles and three texts are included in this review.
Advances in emergency medicine, vocational education training sector reform in the 1970s and 1980s, reviews into ambulance services, health workforce reform and the efforts of PA and CAA contributed to the transition to university-based education, development of university paramedic program accreditation standards and, ultimately, progression towards registration and professionalisation. These signposts of change that chart developments in Australian paramedic education however, proved difficult to uncover in the literature.
Unexpectedly, this review finds peak Australian ambulance and paramedic professional bodies perceive difficulty in influencing policy direction that impacts the profession. Absence of thorough and detailed accounts of Australian paramedic education keeps hidden a unique and important history. We invite further research to preserve the history of paramedic education in Australia within the public domain, to assist the profession to understand what went before and to inform its future directions.
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