Industrial paramedics, out on site but not out of mind

Joseph J Acker, Tania M Johnston, Ann Lazarsfeld-Jensen
Rural and Remote Health 2014, 14 (4): 2856

INTRODUCTION: Australian natural resource exploration and production companies are employing paramedics to provide emergency medical response, primary health care, injury prevention, and health promotion services in remote locations nationally and internationally. Although Australian paramedic practice has steadily evolved to include increasingly complex medical interventions in the prehospital setting, paramedics are not yet registered health professionals, and in many states and territories their title is not protected. Similarly, tertiary-level education is becoming the entry to practice standard for traditional ambulance paramedics; however, certificate- and diploma-level paramedic courses remain an acceptable pathway to private and industrial paramedic jobs. To ensure acceptable patient safety standards are maintained and to protect all related stakeholders, the role, skills, training, and professional capacity of industrial paramedics must be defined.

METHODS: The study objective was to explore the published literature for a definition for the discipline of industrial paramedicine. A comprehensive systematic analysis was conducted using the EBSCOhost (health), MEDLINE, SCOPUS, and CINAHL electronic databases. The primary search terms "remote", "offshore", "mining", and "oil" were combined with the secondary search terms "paramedic" and "emergency medical services".

RESULTS: An initial search using the combined two-term sets identified 870 citations. After application of the inclusion and exclusion criteria to a title and abstract review, 69 citations met the criteria including those discovered by searching the reference lists. Of these, nine citations were excluded because full-text papers could not be found and eight citations were excluded based on review of the full article. The result was 40 articles that discuss the role of paramedics in the remote or offshore environment (ROP) and 12 articles that discuss the provision of emergency medical services in the mining or oil and gas sectors (MOEMS). There is no single definition or comprehensive role description for industrial paramedic practice within the literature.

CONCLUSIONS: Worldwide, there is little high-quality published evidence to adequately reflect all aspects of industrial paramedic practice. However, based on the literature available, this definition is offered: 'An industrial paramedic is an advanced clinical practitioner in paramedicine with an expanded scope of practice. The industrial paramedic provides emergency response, primary health care, chronic disease management, injury prevention, health promotion, medical referral, and repatriation coordination at remote mining sites, offshore installations, and other isolated industry settings. The industrial paramedic is resourceful, adaptable, and comfortable working independently. Industrial paramedics practice on site with limited resources, remotely located from tertiary care, and use telemedicine to consult with other health professionals as required. Industrial paramedics are experts at rapidly assessing, prioritising, and establishing control in their unpredictable workspace to reduce risks and create an environment conducive to quality patient care. The industrial paramedic preferably holds a specialised tertiary qualification and is committed to maintaining their clinical competency through continuing professional development.' Further research is required to validate, refute, or expand this proposed definition.

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