Vaughan Parsons, Louise O’Brien, Peter O'Meara
International Paramedic Practice, Vol. 1, Iss. 1, 05 Sep 2011, pp 9 - 16

For emergency health professionals, the response to a mental health emergency in the community is often brief in nature and centred on quickly ascertaining whether a patient is psychiatrically or physically unwell. For paramedics, mental health emergencies are often challenging because of the ambiguous nature of clinical presentations, lack of collaborative information such as a patient's medical history and back up assistance. Mental health emergencies require paramedics to possess advanced interpersonal skills and patient assessment competencies. With the introduction of new emergency powers across Australian state and territory-based mental health legislation, the roles and responsibilities of paramedics across some jurisdictions has changed significantly. In response to these changes, a number of ambulance services have introduced specific mental health training programmes in an attempt to prepare their workforce to meet and fulfil their legislative responsibilities. In spite of this, the role of paramedics in the care and management of the mentally ill has attracted limited attention in the research literature. This article examines the role of the paramedic with respect to mental illness, what is known about paramedics' clinical decision-making practices, and the opportunities for future development of their scope of practice. It identifies the need for further research to explore the clinical decision-making processes are used by paramedics when fulfilling their mental health legislative responsibilities.

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