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Two major processes underlie human decision-making: experiential (intuitive) and rational (conscious) thinking. The predominant thinking process used by working paramedics and student paramedics to make clinical decisions is unknown.
A survey was administered to ground ambulance paramedics and to primary care paramedic students. The survey included demographic questions and the Rational Experiential Inventory-40, a validated psychometric tool involving 40 questions. Twenty questions evaluated each thinking style: 10 assessed preference and 10 assessed ability to use that style. Responses were provided on a five-point Likert scale, with higher scores indicating higher affinity for the style in question. Analysis included both descriptive statistics and t tests to evaluate differences in thinking style.
The response rate was 88.4% (1172/1326). Paramedics (n=904) had a median age of 36 years (IQR 29–42) and most were male (69.5%) and primary or advanced care paramedics (PCP=55.5%; ACP=32.5%). Paramedic students (n=268) had a median age of 23 years (IQR 21–26), most were male (63.1%) and had completed high school (31.7%) or an undergraduate degree (25.4%) prior to paramedic training. Both groups scored their ability to use and favourability toward rational thinking significantly higher than experiential thinking. The mean score for rational thinking was 3.86/5 among paramedics and 3.97/5 among paramedic students (p<0.001). The mean score for experiential thinking was 3.41/5 among paramedics and 3.35/5 among paramedic students (p=0.06).
Working paramedics and student paramedics prefer and perceive that they have the ability to use rational over experiential thinking. This information adds to our current knowledge on paramedic decision-making and is potentially important for developing continuing education and clinical support tools.
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