Research is something that happens in the background as far as many of us are concerned. We reap the benefits of studies, evidenced based medicine and research daily in all fields of medicine. Some maybe well aware of the impact research has on our profession, others maybe less so. Regardless, it doesn’t change the fact that science and scientific research is one of the leading forces shaping paramedicine around the globe.
In September of 2018 I was privileged enough to attend the first (of hopefully many) Scientific Symposiums organized by the Irish College of Paramedics. While the College was the official organization behind the event, it was Alan Batt acting as organizer, MC, and presenter during this inspiring event that brought it all together day of. For those of you who don’t know Alan, I would argue that he is one of the leading figures in paramedic research in the field. He is a PhD candidate, faculty at Fanshawe College in London, Ontario and an educator with the Center of Paramedic Education and Research. So naturally it was only fitting that he be presenting at and running this event.
The ICoP Scientific Symposium was held at University College Cork – a fitting setting for an event that presents the blossoming field of paramedic led research. Set in the halls of the modern Brookfield Health Science Complex, the event appeared to be right at home in the setting of an educational institute. I couldn’t help but smile wandering through the beautiful grounds and hallways reminiscing fondly about the time spent at my own alma mater. The university halls held a sense of wonder and inquisitiveness that I think one can only find in educational institutions. Naturally, this environment felt like the right place for the event.
It’s always encouraging when I see an international panel of speakers discussing research topics, especially research in paramedicine. To me it suggests that this field is growing and maturing in its own time. There were representatives from Ireland, but I was encouraged to see names from Canada delivering their research topics too. Along side the Irish and Canadian contingent were representatives from Scotland and Australia presenting their unique paramedic research topics.
To kick things off we had a brilliant presentation by Paige Mason, a Primary Care Paramedic with Ottawa Paramedic Service, on her research in Female Leadership in Paramedicine (the FLiP Trial). Touching on topics of gender inequality and what is needed to support strong female leadership in paramedicine, her research project is proving to be ground breaking for female paramedics both in Canada and internationally.
Next we had speakers discussing topics that varied from barriers to EMT educations in the National Ambulance Service, Patient refusal to travel, Empathy Levels in Paramedic students and the Role of Paramedics along side General Practitioners in Primary Practice.
Of all these topics, the new and developing role that paramedics play in primary care absolutely fascinated me. Something that consistently reverberates internationally among the paramedic and the medical community in general is the need for system change. Internationally, services are stretched thin and emergency rooms are over flowing. Raymond O’Connor discussed how general practitioners can work along side paramedics to provide service to the community, being employed by the general practitioner’s office to deliver care in the community after hours or for those who cannot get into the office to see the GP. It reminded me of the Community Paramedic model that is taking shape across North America and around the world. As this thought made it was into my mind none other than J.D. Heffern, an Advanced Care Paramedic and Community Paramedic from Renfrew County, Ontario raises his hand and offers collaboration and discussion in developing the model in Ireland. Amazing. This, this is what events like the Scientific Symposium are about, sharing knowledge, expertise and research to better the paramedic profession.
The discussions moved onto a research presentation by Eammon Byrne, an Advanced Paramedic with the National Ambulance Service. His research explored “Causes of Medication Errors”, a subject that is sometimes difficult for paramedics to address. This is something that we all struggle with in the medical community. We often don’t like to admit that we’ve possibly made a mistake or that we’re fallible. But opening up the conversation encourages change and change ensures betterment of the profession and overall patient safety.
Research as the Great Connector
That just scratched the surface. These were a few of the incredible presentations that were given throughout the day. The thing about research in paramedicine is that it truly is the great connector. It brings our profession closer together locally, nationally and internationally. That’s why events like this are so important. They bring the profession together crossing borders and boundaries while connecting ideas. Research in paramedicine should be led by paramedics. That’s not to say others can’t contribute, on the contrary, there are many incredible contributors to prehospital research from around globe who aren’t paramedics. But in order to for our profession to come into its own (especially in Ontario), we need to lead the way in our future and research is the future.