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Original Research

Extending the paramedic role in rural Australia: a story of flexibility and innovation

Submitted: 24 October 2011
Revised: 13 December 2011
Published: 12 April 2012

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Author(s) : O'Meara PF, Tourle V, Stirling C, Walker J, Pedler D.

Peter O'MearaVianne TourleChristine StirlingJudi WalkerDaryl Pedler

Citation: O'Meara PF, Tourle V, Stirling C, Walker J, Pedler D.  Extending the paramedic role in rural Australia: a story of flexibility and innovation. Rural and Remote Health (Internet) 2012; 12: 1978. Available: (Accessed 21 October 2017)


Introduction:  This article identifies trends in the evolving practice of rural paramedics and describes key characteristics, roles and expected outcomes for a Rural Expanded Scope of Practice (RESP) model.
Methods:  A multiple case study methodology was employed to examine the evolution of rural paramedic practice. Paramedics, volunteer ambulance officers and other health professionals were interviewed in four rural regions of south-eastern Australia where innovative models of rural paramedic practice were claimed to exist. The research team collected and thematically analysed the data using the filter of a sociological framework throughout 2005 and 2006.
Results:  The study found that paramedics are increasingly becoming first line primary healthcare providers in small rural communities and developing additional professional responsibilities throughout the cycle of care.
Conclusions:  Adoption of the RESP model would mean that paramedics undertake four broad activities as core components of their new role: (1) rural community engagement; (2) emergency response; (3) situated practice; and (4) primary health care. The model’s key feature is a capacity to integrate existing paramedic models with other health agencies and health professionals to ensure that paramedic care is part of a seamless system that provides patients with well-organized and high quality care. This expansion of paramedics’ scope of practice offers the potential to improve patient care and the general health of rural communities.

Key words: ambulance, Australia, emergency, EMS, paramedic.

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