• Paramedic students…write something!

    by Christopher Foerster. Last modified: 28/04/16

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    Paramedic students spend countless hours learning about evidence-based medicine and new trends in in prehospital care. As a component of their studies, they are often required to write papers discussing some of these major issues in prehospital care. These papers are often high quality but never move beyond their instructor’s desk to a wider audience through publication. Especially as the summer break approaches for Northern Hemisphere paramedic students, now is a good time to consider turning some of this writing for school assignments into writing for publication.

    There are benefits of writing for publication for both the author personally and more broadly for our profession and patients. Bringing these important topics that are often first discussed first in an academic setting to the broad audience of front-line paramedics helps to advance the care we provide as a profession to better help our patients. Well informed front-line paramedics can be key drivers of change, and a critical source of information for paramedics is our profession’s journals. Having publications can provide a paramedic student with personal benefits, particularly having a potential advantage when it comes to the hiring process, even for a front-line paramedic position. The professional involvement demonstrated through publication should be looked highly upon by potential employers. Finally, some paramedic students who write for publication will find that they enjoy academic writing and might make research or writing a component of their ongoing professional life.

    While the benefits of writing for publication are clear, there are a number of perceived barriers that seem to stand in the way of paramedic students:

    “Working paramedics must already know all about this.”

    Too often, it is assumed by students that the discussions in class and the big topics addressed are all things that are already known by the active front-line paramedics. While this is likely true for the core content of clinical medicine, the newest information often reaches the academic institutions before it makes it to the front-line paramedics. Articles in our professional publications are a key way for this information to reach the wide audience of front-line paramedics.

    “Only original research is can be published.”

    Because so many of the papers we look at to guide our clinical practice are in high citation peer-reviewed journals, there is often the perception among paramedic students that this is the only material that is worthy of publication. While we are not likely to ever see a paramedic student’s review article looking at the safety and efficacy of prehospital tourniquets in the New England Journal of Medicine, this is exactly the type of article that might be seen in Canadian Paramedicine. Looking through Canadian Paramedicine or similar publications from other countries you will find many articles that help to synthesize information from high citation peer-reviewed journals focus on its relevance for paramedics and prehospital care.

    “My paper isn’t good enough to be published.”

    Paramedic students tend to be overly critical of their own work. It is true that your paper will probably need some modifications to make it suitable for publication, but the core of the work has already been done. Making adjustments in style of the specific angle you have taken should not be arduous. Fear of rejection when you do submit the paper for publication should not stop you from trying. Even if it turns out that your first attempt at getting the final product published is unsuccessful, you will get valuable feedback from the editor that should help you to improve your paper to achieve publication on a subsequent attempt.

    So where do you go from here? It can be good to start with an instructor or senior colleague who have published before to help guide you through the process. If you do not have access to someone local for this you can always reach out for help to a colleague online. After deciding which piece of writing you would like to try to publish the next step is to decide where you would like to submit your work.

    Whichever journal you choose to submit to, ensure that you carefully confirm to their submission guidelines  (e.g. with respect to format, referencing, word count, etc.). The links above all go directly to the author instructions page for each of the journals.

    There are also many resources online that can help to support you in your writing and research. If you have not yet needed to write for school assignments or if you would like to improve the structure of your writing, you may want to check out our Introduction to Academic Writing. For moving beyond academic writing and to conducting formal research, Gavin Smith’s guide in the Australasian Journal of Paramedicine can be found here.

    Bridging the gap between writing for school assignments and writing for publication can appear daunting at first, but the process does not need to be so intimidating. This is especially true when you take advantage of your professional colleagues who are eager to help facilitate more paramedic research and help guide you through the process. As a paramedic student, you have something useful to say, so consider saying it by writing for publication.

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    Christopher Foerster

    Christopher Foerster

    Chris is a paramedic with Lambton EMS in Ontario, Canada and is active in paramedic education and research.
    Christopher Foerster

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