Looking back to inform the future: a review of published paramedicine research

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Abstract Objective Paramedicine has evolved in ways that may outpace the science informing these changes. Examining the scholarly pursuits of paramedicine may provide insights into the historical academic focus, which may inform future endeavors and evolution of paramedicine. The objective of this study was to explore the existing discourse in paramedicine research to reflect on the academic pursuits of this community. Methods We searched Medline, Embase, CINAHL, Google Scholar and Web of Science from January, 2006 to April, 2019. We further refined the yield using a ranking formula that prioritized journals most relevant to paramedicine, then sampled randomly in two-year clusters for full text review. We extracted literature type, study topic and context, then used elements of qualitative content, thematic, and discourse analysis to further describe the sample. Results The initial search yielded 99,124 citations, leaving 54,638 after removing duplicates and 7084 relevant articles from nine journals after ranking. Subsequently, 2058 articles were included for topic categorization, and 241 papers were included for full text analysis after random sampling. Overall, this literature reveals: 1) a relatively narrow topic focus, given the majority of research has concentrated on general operational activities and specific clinical conditions and interventions (e.g., resuscitation, airway management, etc.); 2) a limited methodological (and possibly philosophical) focus, given that most were observational studies (e.g., cohort, case control, and case series) or editorial/commentary; 3) a variety of observed trajectories of academic attention, indicating where the evolution of paramedicine is evident, areas where scope of practice is uncertain, and areas that aim to improve skills historically considered core to paramedic clinical practice. Conclusions Included articles suggest a relatively narrow topic focus, a limited methodological focus, and observed trajectories of academic attention indicating where research pursuits and priorities are shifting. We have highlighted that the academic focus may require an alignment with aspirational and direction setting documents aimed at developing paramedicine. This review may be a snapshot of scholarly activity that reflects a young medically directed profession and systems focusing on a few high acuity conditions, with aspirations of professional autonomy contributing to the health and social well-being of communities.
BMC Health Services Research. 2023 Feb 02;23(1):108