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Australia’s first Paramedic Health and Wellbeing Unit opens at Monash University

February 26, 2019 | in News, Operations

In collaboration with Ambulance Victoria, Melbourne’s Monash University launched Australia’s first research unit looking at the mental and physical health and wellbeing of paramedics.

The idea for the Paramedic Health and Wellbeing Research Unit came about when MICA Flight Paramedic Ben Meadley started his PhD at Monash University, on the physical and metabolic health of paramedics. The PhD involves examining a range of health factors that impact paramedics across the career spectrum – from graduate paramedics to the most senior MICA paramedics.

Paramedics undertake a very important role in our society – providing emergency care and assistance to those in need. This role is often associated with poor sleep, stress and an increased risk of health problems. Left unchecked, these problems may escalate into higher levels of anxiety, stress, fatigue, cardiovascular disease, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

PHAWRU’s first study

The PHAWRU’s first study involves testing the fitness level of intensive care flight paramedics

Mr Meadley, discussed his idea of a unit that would bring together multiple disciplines and support from Ambulance Victoria with CEO, Associate Professor Tony Walker.

“It made sense to bring together in one unit all elements of research in ways to improve the lives and resilience of Victoria’s more than 3,400 paramedics and 578 MICA paramedics,” he said.

And Associate Professor Walker agreed.

“I then worked with a team of Monash University senior academic staff and Ambulance Victoria executive staff to develop the concept, which is designed to bring research areas together where collaborative research will occur to aid our understanding and improve paramedic health,” said Mr Meadley.

“We will be working with psychologists, physiotherapists, nutritionists, exercise physiologists as well as Ambulance Victoria to look at the current health and mental wellbeing of our paramedics and researching ways to make them healthier, mentally and physically,” he said.

Researching the fitness of MICA flight paramedics

Researching the fitness of MICA flight paramedics

Professor Karen Smith, Ambulance Victoria’s Director of the Centre for Research and Evaluation said AV needed to prioritise the health and wellbeing of its paramedics to ensure they could provide a quality service to their patients.

“This research unit is seen as a foundation for a larger research centre that prioritises the needs of the paramedic and paramedic student, to the same level as we do their patients.”

Paramedic and PhD student Brendan Shannon said the unit would have a vital role in providing an evidence base to help understand the causes of health and wellbeing challenges paramedics face and develop improvement strategies.

“Hopefully this can lead to paramedics continuing to have long and fulfilling careers and providing care to the best of our ability to the communities we serve,” he said.

The initiative is aligned to Ambulance Victoria’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy to support the  workforce through difficult moments, reduce stress and deliver better mental health outcomes. The work Ambulance Victoria paramedics do can be stressful and the physical, emotional and psychological wellbeing is taken seriously.

The Paramedic Health and Wellbeing Research Unit is based at Monash University’s Peninsula campus in Frankston.