What's the point of paramedics? a qualitative exploration of the publics' understanding

Matt Capsey, Julia Williams

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


This qualitative study explores the public's understanding of the paramedic role in the UK. Participants who had not had any previous experience of emergency paramedic care were recruited through the mailing lists of two community groups in a small rural market town. Eight participants (6 women and 2 men) took part in semi-structured interviews which were recorded, transcribed verbatim and analysed using thematic analysis. From the data it was apparent that paramedics were seen as ‘helping in an emergency’ and ‘when you can't cope’. This understanding had been decoded from a range of sources but most strongly from what participants had actually seen themselves or heard about from friends and acquaintances. Participants did not consider media and fictional representations to be reliable preferring their own observations of emergency vehicles moving through traffic or seen waiting on the road side. Paramedics were identified as arriving first at an incident often in cars or on motorcycles, but they were seen as being different from ambulance crews. When constructing their understanding of the role, participants frequently compared paramedics to other healthcare professionals, especially doctors or nurses.

Participants would only call for assistance if they perceived it to be a ‘real’ emergency. however this was poorly defined and appeared to be related to a perceived ability to cope rather than based on experience of specific medical conditions. This finding requires further investigation to examine whether schemes to reduce calls to ambulance services may be better targeted at enhancing coping strategies rather than providing condition-specific information.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication International Journal of Qualitative Methods
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2014
Event20th Qualitative Health Research Conference - Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe Resort & Spa, Victoria, Canada
Duration: 19 Oct 201423 Oct 2014


Conference20th Qualitative Health Research Conference


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