A simulated wilderness exercise: the development of relational competence in paramedic students

Rosemary Ford
Sunday, November 2, 2014

The aim of this study was to assess the impact of a cognitively and physically challenging simulated wilderness exercise (SWE) on the development of relational competence in senior paramedic students. New paramedic graduates reportedly bring limited relational competence to their work role. The SWE, conducted in a wilderness landscape in Central Victoria, Australia was developed to address this limitation. Our study, an interpretative qualitative design, used a convenience sample of paramedic students who attended the three-day event (n=29). Qualitative data were collected through participant field diary and focus groups. Thematic analysis of study data identified four themes associated with relational competence, with each giving voice to participants’ new understandings of themselves in the work environment, namely: ‘interpersonal relating’, ‘maturity, respect and tolerance’, ‘self-awareness in the team environment’ and ‘belonging and professional identity’. It is clear that the challenge of working in teams in an unfamiliar and physically taxing environment prompted and/or extended relational competence in study participants. The practice implication of this finding is that these graduates will perform the relational aspects of their work role with greater ease, thus strengthening transition to normal work pressures in their first professional work role.

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