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Are paramedic graduates effectively prepared for death? A scoping review

02 October 2021
Volume 13 · Issue 10


Paramedics often come across death because of the nature of their work. Attending an incident involving the death of a patient could affect a paramedic's mental health. A scoping literature review surrounding the readiness and education regarding death in the prehospital setting for paramedic students was carried out. Given the potential impact upon practitioner mental health, the review aimed to determine the quality and extent of new research regarding education in death for paramedics. Four themes arose from the review: inadequate preparation; methods of death education; improved confidence; and implications for more research.

Paramedics encounter death regularly owing to the nature of being first responders to a variety of health-related emergencies. It is also the reality that patients may have poor outcomes such as death and disability.

In 2018, paramedics attended 7874 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests (OHCAs) in New South Wales, Australia (Dyson, 2020). Approximately 27% of these patients survived to the emergency department (Dyson, 2020). Given the statistics on OHCA outcomes, it is reasonable to assume that a paramedic will witness the death of a patient.

Paramedic students may not have witnessed death before a work placement or internship. This may be a stressful experience and could influence their mental wellbeing. Paramedics are often required to communicate death notifications and support to families or other people close to the patient and may have personal struggles when confronted with death.

Most paramedic courses aim to prepare students for the realities of the profession but it is not clear how effective they are in preparing graduates for witnessing death.

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