Experiential education enhancing paramedic perspective and interpersonal communication with older patients: a controlled study

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BACKGROUND: Paramedics are required to provide care to an aging population with multidimensional and complex issues. As such educators need to prepare undergraduate paramedics to recognise, assess and manage a broad range of psychosocial care and support issues beyond somatic conditions. Experiential educational interventions with older people provide realistic and contextualised experience which can improve the provision of holistic patient focused care.

METHODS: This was a single institution controlled before-after study with parallel groups, conducted in Australia in 2017. It was designed to compare the effectiveness of an educational program related to older people (intervention), verses no intervention (control) on paramedic student attitudes, knowledge and behavior with older patients.

RESULTS: A total of 124 second year paramedic students were included in this study; 60 in the intervention and 64 in the control group. Their demographics and Time 1 baseline results were homogeneous. Both groups showed improvement in communication skills with real older patients (p < 0.001, η2 = 0.41) and (p < 0.001, η2 = 0.35). The intervention group showed greater improvements in the 'understands the patient's perspective' element for both the self-assessment (p < 0.001) and the clinician assessment (p = 0.01). Multiple linear regression Model 1 found gender (β = - 0.25; p = 0.01) was the best predictor of clinician-assessed communication, with females having higher scores. Knowledge and attitudes remained relatively unchanged for both groups.

CONCLUSIONS: As the first study to observe, measure and report on the interpersonal communication skills of paramedic student's with 'real' older patients we can report that these skills were from fair to good at baseline and improved from good to very good post the intervention. Overall improvement was notably better in the 'understanding the patients perspective element' for the intervention group who had conducted one-one visits with an older person.

Original languageEnglish
Article number239
Number of pages10
JournalBMC Medical Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 20 Oct 2018


  • Aged
  • Allied health personnel
  • Communication
  • Controlled before-after studies
  • Emergency medical technicians
  • Older patients
  • Older people
  • Paramedic
  • Psychosocial support systems

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