Paramedics and professionalisation

Since the birth of organised pre-hospital emergency care the question of its professionalisation has been met with ambiguity. From its origins in military history as a transport service to its development into the current practitioner role that has become an integral part of the health care sector, the need for its recognition as a profession has become increasingly important.

One of the main concerns regarding professionalisation is that it has no clear definition. Sociologists of professions will dispute the requirements necessary for an occupation to be seen as a profession and so it remains questionable as to how much it relies simply on perception. According to Evetts (2012), professionalisation involves the protection of practitioners of an occupation by only making it possible to practice that occupation if you are trained in that particular category of knowledge. However, surely professionalisation extends beyond mere training?

Within the UK, the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) was formed as a statutory regulator of health and care professionals, standardising the education and training received by members of the National Health Service (NHS) workforce and moving that training into the university sector (HCPC, 2013). The HCPC liaises with professional bodies for all the professions that the registrar is responsible for. These organisations do work which may include promoting the profession, representing members, curriculum frameworks, post-registration education and training and continuing professional development (HCPC, 2013). The College of Paramedics (then the British Paramedic Association) was set up as the professional body for the ambulance profession. According to the College of Paramedics, having a professional body has given them the opportunity to change the way that education, training and associated awards are established (College of Paramedics, 2013).

In this issue of International Paramedic Practice, Pip Lyndon James looks at the issue of professionalisation for Australian paramedics. She comments on how at present the Australian paramedic discipline is not considered a full profession by the national or state governments. Despite frequent public misassumption that paramedicine is a registered, highly-regulated industry credited with professional status, this is currently not the case.

It is clear that steps are gradually being taken to reach this ultimate aim. Moving in the direction of other health disciplines, such as medicine and nursing, the advent of paramedic degrees worldwide that are replacing the traditional older in-house training conducted by ambulance services is surely a move in the right direction. While paramedicine has not yet received the professional status it deserves, it is important to bear in mind the distinction between professionalism and professionalisation. Until paramedicine receives professionalisation, it is integral that paramedics continue to act in a professional manner, adhering to codes of conduct and striving towards ongoing professional development.

References:

College of Paramedics (2013) About us. http://www.collegeofparamedics.co.uk/about_us/ (accessed 21 August 2013)

Evetts J (2012) Similarities in Contexts and Theorizing: Professionalism and Inequality. Professions and Professionalism 2(2)

Health and Care Professions Council (2013) Aims and vision. http://www.hcpc-uk.org/aboutus/aimsandvision/ (accessed 21 August 2013)

Taken from International Paramedic Practice, published 28 August 2013.

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