Paramedic clinical decision-making in mental health care: a new theoretical approach

This article aims to present a new theoretical approach for examining paramedic clinical decision-making in relation to mental health care. Recent theorizing has begun exploring key clinical decision-making approaches that are particularly relevant to paramedic practice. These approaches have also revealed some important factors that influence clinical decision-making behaviours among paramedics such as prior experience and clinical and tacit knowledge. The literature, however, provides very little insight into the clinical decision-making strategies paramedics draw on and use when dealing with mental health patients, in particular, those patients who are dealt with under involuntary provisions of mental health legislation. In addition, the literature provides limited coverage to account for how paramedics deal with and mitigate risk factors relating to patients experiencing a mental health emergency. Following these shortcomings, this article will propose the use of hermeneutic phenomenological methods as a suitable and innovative interpretive research approach for examining paramedic clinical decisionmaking in relation to prehospital mental health care. It is argued that this approach is well suited for exploring how paramedics make sense of their experience providing emergency mental health care, how they perceive their role within the clinician-patient relationship, and the particular circumstances in which paramedics exercise their legislative responsibilities under mental health legislation.

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