Paramedic Health and Wellbeing Research Unit (PHAWRU)
December 2018 saw the commencement of National Registration for paramedics as registered health professions in Australia. This was in recognition of the complexity of the tasks they undertake on a daily basis and the education and training required to hold such a position. The Paramedicine Board of Australia noted that the role of a paramedic has grown drastically over the last two decades as “paramedics are now working in a range of roles and environments, using sophisticated treatments and technology, to provide world class services to Australian communities.”1
With the professionalisation of paramedicine, the evidence base from which clinical practice is guided has also developed. Professional paramedicine bodies support research through grants, special interest groups, journals and conferences. Most universities include research units in their undergraduate degrees and many offer post graduate research training degrees. With the largest number of PhD qualified paramedics internationally, Australia is leading the way in paramedic-led research, while still seeking strong collaborations with other medical and health professionals and researchers. This collaborative approach has led to success in the development of nationally funded Centre’s of Research Excellence, initially with the establishment of the Australian Resuscitation Outcomes Consortium (Aus-ROC) and recently with the Centre of Research Excellence in Prehospital Emergency Care.
Although these research centres have excelled in improving patient outcomes, no research unit currently focuses on the health and wellbeing of paramedics. Recent media has emphasised the high suicide and post-traumatic stress disorder rates among paramedics, high rates of musculoskeletal injuries and frequent exposure to occupational violence. The shift-work nature of paramedic rosters, the isolated clinical setting and repeated exposure to trauma are thought to add to the stress and fatigue experienced by many paramedics. Concerning pilot data has also seen similar results in paramedic students. There is an understanding that we need to prioritise the health and wellbeing of our paramedics to ensure they can provide a quality service to their patients. This research unit is seen as a foundation for a larger research centre that prioritises the needs of the paramedic and paramedic student, to the same level as we do their patients.
The PHAWRU acknowledges that paramedic and paramedic student health and wellbeing are central to a successful Ambulance Service sector. We promote research that focusses on the needs of the clinician. Therefore we: draw on knowledge, skills and experience from a diverse range of medical and health fields; conduct research with the aim of identifying concerns of the paramedic from their time as a student through to specialist roles; and collaborate with clinicians and ambulance services to ensure relevance and validity in the research we undertake.
The PHAWRU will be hosted within the Department of Paramedicine, School of Primary and Allied Health Care, Monash University.
The PHAWRU envisions a healthy paramedic and volunteer workforce that can provide optimal care to the community. To help achieve this we strive to:
- understand the causes of health and wellbeing challenges for paramedics and paramedic students;
- develop projects that result in translatable outcomes;
- constantly engage with the paramedic workforce to support them throughout their careers; and
- provide an evidence base for international best care health improvement strategies