• In Contemplation of Episode Two

    by Trystan Donnelly. Last modified: 07/04/14



    Lessons learned so far…

    We all can do research

    We all can (and should) do research. A bachelor’s or master’s degree is not a necessary prerequisite. And, incidentally, don’t sell yourself short; you do have qualifications and education! Despite the fact that everybody you meet knows how to your job better than you, as a paramedic you do have an impressive theoretical and practical knowledge base. Let’s expand that knowledge of paramedicine with research performed by paramedics. However, there are some places where our standard education falls a little short. For example, statistics…

    It is a statistical game

    Statistics is an important component of research. It helps us analyze and validate our data and helps us make sense of what we’re doing. There are some great college level statistics courses out there, and they’re free! I’m working through one right now and I’m sure there are plenty of other good ones. Feel free to join me on this one (but I’m waaay ahead of you!)

    Intro to Statistics Making Decisions Based on Data

    You can’t do it alone

    Well, you can but it would be a lot tougher! As with most things that end successfully, a good team is important.

    None of our contributors has overtly said this but it seems that a common theme in discussions with researchers is that mentorship is vital. Finding someone who has done some research already can help you by directing your inquiry and helping you appreciate the subtleties of what is important and what is not. There is an overwhelming amount of information to process about the procedure and practice of research when you are starting out inexperienced.

    Collaborators can also be very helpful, especially if they’re experienced. They can not only perform in the role of the mentor if necessary but can also help you with access to resources and introductions to the people who can help you along the way. Niels Tangherlini says “Residents, particularly ER residents, are great to team up with as they are often required to conduct research as part of their education and it is a great way to foster the connection between field EMS providers and the physician community”

    Finally, you do need “the buy-in and consent of the provider where you work or whatever provider is going to be the source of data” says Niels. This seems reasonable, if you want data someone is going to have to agree to give it to you. Similarly, if you want a service or provider to act a certain way so that you can study the effects then, obviously, you have to ask them to act a certain way! The exception would, of course, be retrospective studies. I suppose you could imagine a scenario where you tricked them into acting a certain way but that brings me to my next point…

    Ethical approval is important

    Ethical approval is ethical! Ultimately, this is about improving conditions for our patients and stomping all over their basic rights or treating them as objects of curiosity is not conducive to that end. Approval from a research ethics board or a committee on human research will, of course, take care of basic requirements. For example, they’ll require you to seek informed consent from participants. However, it will also help you uncover previously unrecognized aspects of your study that might cause an ethical quandary and help you navigate these murky waters and move the study forward.

    In my corner of the world (Alberta) there are six Research Ethics Boards (REBs) under the Health Information Act to review and approve health research. These REBs exist within the framework of  a sponsoring organization or institution. The REBs themselves are independent in their decision-making but they remain accountable to the institutional body that established them and the institutions are ultimately accountable for the research conducted under their jurisdiction.

    Just for the sake of example, here are Alberta’s REBs:

    • Alberta Cancer Research Ethics Committee (ACREC)
    • Community Research Ethics Board of Alberta (CREBA)
    • Conjoint Health Research Ethics Board (CHREB)
    • Health Research Ethics Board (HREB)
    • Human Subject Research Committee
    • Research Ethics Review Committee (RERC)

    There are good journals

    Maybe I was naive but this came as a surprise to me. In the current anti-academic climate of North America I’ve been insulated from the world of research and learning and I honestly didn’t realize that there were actual, reputable journals devoted to paramedicine! Enter Alan Batt. Alan has suggested the following:

    1. Journal of Paramedic Practice
    2. Journal of International Paramedic Practice
    3. Prehospital Emergency Care
    4. Australasian Journal of Paramedicine


    1. Find a mentor and start collecting a team.
    2. Start thinking about where your data is going to come from and where your interests coincide. For example, if I know that my service is the most accessible source of data and that our leadership values innovation then why not research an innovative procedure or a new piece of equipment? It is research that has a tangible (and marketable) benefit when I go looking for support, especially when I’m new to research!
    3. Count on seeking ethical approval. Find out what boards or committees have jurisdiction over human/ medical research in your area and start thinking about the ethics right from the earliest stages of development.
    4. Get your head in the game. If there is supplemental education you need (statistics for example), get it! Get it early as a foundation for the learning that you’re planning to do via your research. Incidentally, this is where prehospitalresearch.eu really pulls through for us, there is a heap of free information and education right here!
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    Trystan Donnelly

    Trystan Donnelly

    Trystan is a Canadian Advanced Care Paramedic. After completing a degree in biology at the University of Victoria and the University of Alberta, Trystan returned to the UofA and studied paramedicine. After more than a decade of practice, Trystan's energies have returned to academia where he is an active educator and a nascent researcher.

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    2 thoughts on “In Contemplation of Episode Two

    • Peter O'Meara says:

      Also have a look at the Australasian Journal of Paramedicine, formerly the Journal of Emergency Primary Health Care based in Australia and run by Paramedics Australasia.

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