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Paramedicine is often dependent on physician medical directors and their associated programs for direction and oversight. A positive relationship between paramedics and their oversight physicians promotes safety and quality care while a strained or ineffective one may threaten these goals. The objective of this study was to explore and understand the professional relationship between paramedics and physician medical oversight as viewed by front-line paramedics.
All active front-line paramedics from four municipal paramedic services involving three medical oversight groups in Ontario were invited to complete an online survey.
Five hundred and four paramedics were invited to participate in the study, with 242 completing the survey (48% response rate); 66% male, 76% primary care paramedics with an average of 13 (SD=9) years of experience. Paramedics had neutral or positive perceptions regarding their autonomy, opportunities to interact with their medical director, and medical director understanding of the prehospital setting. Paramedics perceived medical directives as rigid and ambiguous. A significant amount of respondents reported a perception of having provided suboptimal patient care due to fear of legal or disciplinary consequences. Issues of a lack of support for critical thinking and a lack of trust between paramedics and medical oversight groups were often raised.
Paramedic perceptions of physician medical oversight were mixed. Concerning areas identified were perceptions of ambiguous written directives and concerns related to the level of trust and support for critical thinking. These perceptions may have implications for the system of care and should be explored further.
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