Mental health represents a growing concern for health services in Australia. Paramedics are increasingly becoming the first point-of-contact for patients experiencing an acute mental health episode. Despite this increasing prevalence of cases there is an established body of literature outlining that paramedics feel inadequately trained to manage these patients.
This research aimed to identify how the management of acutely unwell mental health patients is included in paramedic curricula in Australia.
A scoping review methodology was used in association with a thematic analysis of university learning outcomes related to mental health education for Bachelor of Paramedic programs in Australia. It was identified that there are considerable discrepancies between university learning outcomes for mental health education of paramedics.
Mental health management of patients is not integrated throughout curricula, with most students only being exposed to mental health education once in their degree usually as a theoretical subject with no specific mental health practice placement. Further, the existence of discrepancies regarding mental health management education between paramedic courses creates an unequal minimum standard of education among graduating paramedic students.
Given the prevalence of mental health cases and the special powers that paramedics have to manage these cases, as well as the fact that mental health does not discriminate between jurisdictions (ie. patients present and should be managed similarly in all states and territories), the authors argue that special consideration by the profession should be given to mandating a consistency in mental health management education across all paramedic Bachelor degree programs.
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