Graduate attributes and the professionalisation of Australian paramedics: an empirical study

2017-05-17T02:15:30Z (GMT) by Williams, Brett Anthony
The paramedic discipline within Australia has seen a remarkable change in a number of areas including education, training, identity, and scope of clinical practice, particularly over the past three decades. Therefore preparing future paramedic graduates for these expected roles and changes requires a careful and strategic alignment of graduate attributes to course curricula, especially since what constitutes these graduate attributes is still a contentious area of debate amongst practitioners. The primary aim of this study was to investigate the graduate attributes that best reflected professional practice for Australian paramedics, thus providing an opportunity to standardise curricula nationally and strengthen its claims to be recognised as a fully-fledged health care profession. By undertaking the first attempt at developing an empirically-based paramedic graduate attribute scale; this study makes an important and informed contribution to the paramedic body of knowledge, theory and practice. This thesis reports the development and validation of the Paramedic Graduate Attribute Scale (PGAS). The PGAS was completed by 872 paramedic participants from around Australia. A combination of classical-test theory (factor analysis) and item-response theory (Rasch analysis) were utilised to validate and refine the PGAS. Results from these analyses confirmed a 30-item reliable and valid scale made up of seven viable factors (Personal Behaviour and Attitudes, Patient Interaction and Welfare, Scientific Approach to Patient Care, Paramedic and Society, Commitment to Professional and Health Care Outcomes, Professional Behaviour, Interaction Skills). The PGAS provides a graduate attribute and curriculum blueprint for paramedic course accreditation, standardisation, curriculum mapping and benchmarking processes. Accompanying this standardisation will be a nationally consistent paramedic curriculum, providing assurance that graduates are meeting industry standards and community expectations. The implementation and uptake of graduate attributes has been historically patchy in the Higher Education sector, therefore, the integration of the PGAS should be based on a theoretical and curriculum framework. One such model that appears well suited to paramedic education is constructive alignment. The outcome of the graduate attribute mapping and curriculum renewal process is that it signals to other health care professions, industry partners (employers), and state and federal governments that the paramedic discipline is now confident that it will be recognised as a legitimate health care profession. The PGAS can now be utilised by the Australian paramedic discipline in its attempt to standardise and formally accredit the growing numbers of paramedic programs around Australia. It will also assist in making a meaningful contribution to the growing body of paramedic empirical knowledge.