Do non-rotational ambulance-based placements affect the development of paramedic competencies from a student perspective? A qualitative study



How to Cite

Baranowski L, Armour R. Do non-rotational ambulance-based placements affect the development of paramedic competencies from a student perspective? A qualitative study. Australasian Journal of Paramedicine [Internet]. 2020May4 [cited 2023Jan.26];17. Available from:



University-led higher education for paramedics has been in place for over 20 years, with students in these programs required to complete supervised clinical placements with an experienced paramedic mentor. This investigation aims to establish whether the non-rotation of paramedic students between paramedic mentors while on ambulance-based placements aids or hinders the undergraduate paramedic student’s development of competencies.


Purposive and convenience sampling methods were used, with semi-structured group interviews conducted with second year undergraduate paramedic students for data collection. Thematic analysis was used to draw meaning from the collected data.


Five key themes emerged from within the data. Students reported difficulties in maintaining relationships with their assigned mentors, particularly in situations where conflicting schedules and role changes necessitated frequent rotation between mentors. Students reported feeling there was great variety in the way competency-based learning is managed by paramedic mentors, leading to inconsistencies in assessment. Students also described comparing their own personality and clinical practice against mentors, in order to self-identify more appropriate mentors during the placements.


This research provides an initial insight into how paramedic students perceive the effects of non-rotational ambulance-based placements on the development of competencies. Based on the findings of this research it is not possible to draw firm conclusions as to whether the non-rotation of ambulance-based placements aids or hinders undergraduate student paramedics’ development of competencies. Further research is required in this area across a variety of settings in order to understand the applicability of these results.


Health and Care Professions Council. Homepage [Internet]. London, United Kingdom; HCPC; Cited December 2019. Available at:

The College of Paramedics. Paramedic Curriculum Guidance & Competence Framework, 5th edn. Bridgewater: College of Paramedics; September 2019. Available at:

Fuller L, Unwin L. Towards expansive apprenticeships: a commentary by the Teaching and Learning Research Program. London: University of London; 2008. Available at:

Lave J, Wenger E. Situated learning: legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press; 1991.

Henderson T. Influence of life experience on undergraduate paramedic students placements. Journal of Paramedic Practice 2012;4:585-92. doi: 10.12968/jpar.2012.4.10.585

Boyle M, Williams B, Cooper J, Adams B, Alford K. Ambulance clinical placements – a pilot study of students’ experience. BMC Med Educ 2008;8(19). doi: 10.1186/1472-6920-8-19

Vaughn S, Schumm J, Sinagub J. Focus group interviews in education and psychology. Thousand Oaks, USA: Sage Publications; 1996.

Barriball K, While A. Collecting data using a semi-structured interview: a discussion paper. J Adv Nurs 1994;19:328-35. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2648.1994.tb01088.x

British Education Research Association. Ethical guidelines for educational research. London: BERA; 2011. Available at:

Gopee N. Mentoring and supervising in healthcare. London, United Kingdom: Sage; 2011.

Price R. Moving wards – how do student nurses cope? Nurs Times 1985;85:32-5.