Our paramedic PhDs

Two rurally based paramedics recently celebrated completing their PhDs at La Trobe University’s graduation ceremony in Mildura.  They share why they chose to pursue research and what impact they hope their research will have.

Angela Martin says just over a decade ago she was a paramedic, working in a rural ambulance station when she started to think about how service delivery for patients could be improved.  She is now a published author and leading expert in the country on Community Paramedicine – a model of care gaining more attention to help alleviate rural health workforce shortages.

“My PhD journey began when I stepped onto La Trobe’s Bendigo to meet some of Australia's finest and most respected academics.   I could not help but feel inspired by the achievements of these scholars in their pursuit of improving rural health provision in our country, via such models as Community Paramedicine.  I have always loved writing, so combining my passion for paramedicine and writing to undertake research was a no-brainer.

“A community paramedic provides person-centred care within an interdisciplinary team, engaging in the delivery of primary healthcare, clinical assessment, disease management, palliative care, health promotion, education and needs-based interventions - significantly reducing hospital dependency.  We are seeing this model in practice in Mildura via Sunraysia Community Health Services and their CP Clinic.

“My research explored stakeholder perspectives on Community Paramedicine (CP) to develop an understanding on the experiences of consumers, paramedics and industry representatives pioneering this innovative model of care across North America.  My thesis findings and recommendations will assist in guiding future implementation, recruitment and evaluation of CP programs around the world.”

Angela started her career as a Registered Nurse, before specialising in Emergency care.  She is currently working as a Fly In Fly Out (FIFO) Community Paramedic in Ceduna, delivering culturally sensitive primary health care and social services to transient and local Aboriginal people.

“It has always been my dream to work in the role I have spent ten years advocating for and researching.  I am finding it to be the most rewarding role of my career.”

Similarly, Brodie Thomas pursued his research, as he identified a much-needed gap that required exploration.

“My research investigated interventions for workplace violence in emergency healthcare. I found that there aren’t many interventions that effectively prevent violence and the responsibility to do this mainly falls on the healthcare workers. I interviewed paramedics, Emergency Department nurses and collected data from Emergency Departments to better understand the issue. The outcomes from this are that prevention interventions should be part of a systems-based approach that include a focus on perpetrators, not just on the healthcare workers. I propose a new direction for workplace violence prevention that takes the responsibility away from individuals, increases the capacity or health services to deal with violence and provides better care for our patients.”

“I studied my paramedicine degree with La Trobe.  Since then, I’ve worked in Mildura and Irymple as a paramedic. I love working as a paramedic and get a lot of value being able to help people in emergencies.

“Leading up to becoming a paramedic I was excited for and focussed on clinical work. I did not have aspirations to complete a PhD prior to becoming a paramedic.  I soon came to realise the benefit of conducting research and knew that this skillset would be highly valuable for Paramedicine in the future. I was inspired to work towards overcoming common dangers that paramedics face every day.”

Brodie says whilst completing his PhD, the two most important things to him were having a research topic that he was passionate about and having a supportive team around him.

“My supervisory team was amazing throughout my entire course. I am convinced that I would not have been able to get to where I am without my supervisors. All PhDs are a journey with many unexpected obstacles popping up along the way. Despite the obstacles, I’ve had a great experience studying my PhD with La Trobe, and this would not have been possible without my primary supervisor, Evelien Spelten.”

Angela says it has been an honour and a privilege to have had the mentorship and guidance of her supervisory team.

“My former principal supervisor was Professor Peter O’Meara, I then transferred to the La Trobe’s Mildura Campus under the supervision of Associate Professor Evelien Spelten.  Under the mentorship of my visionary supervisors, I felt at home - as though I had found my place, where I would be heard, grow and learn.

Angela adds, “If you have a vision to improve a service, close a gap or implement something that has never been done before, follow this through with a higher degree in research. My vision was fortunately realised through the implementation of a CP model across regional South Australia and is an example of how change can be driven from the grassroots within an organisation if you are courageous, visionary and a stern advocate of your research.”