Introduction Paramedics may be involved in the care of patients experiencing a health crisis associated with palliative care. However, little is known about the paramedic’s role in the care of these patients. This study therefore aimed to describe the incidence and nature of cases attended by paramedics, the treatment provided, and the transport destination if transported, where the reason for attendance was associated with a history of palliative care.
Methods This retrospective cohort study included all adult patients (aged > 17 years) attended by paramedics in the Australian state of Victoria between 1 July 2015 and 30 June 2016 where terms associated with palliative care, dying or end of life were recorded in the patient care record. Secondary transfers were excluded. Descriptive statistics were used to analyse the sample. Categorical data are presented as frequencies and proportions, with comparisons made using the χ2 test.
Results 4,348 cases met inclusion criteria. Most patients were aged between 61–80 years (47.9%). The most common assessments recorded by paramedics were ‘respiratory’ (20.1%), ‘pain’ (15.8%), and ‘deceased’ (7.9%). 54.0% (n=2,346) received treatment from the paramedics, and 74.4% (n=3,237) were transported, with the most common destination a hospital (99.5%, n=3,221). Of those with pain as the primary impression, 359 (53.9%) received an analgesic. Nausea and/or vomiting was documented in 15.6% (n=680) of cases attended. Antiemetics administered in these cases included metoclopramide (n=71, 10.4%), prochlorperazine (n=21, 3.1%), and ondansetron (n=9, 1.3%). Resuscitation was attempted in 98 (29.1%) of the 337 cases coded as cardiac arrest. Among non-transported cases, there were 105 (9.6%) cases where paramedics re-attended the patient within 24 hours of the previous attendance.
Discussion and conclusion Paramedics may become involved in the care of patients receiving palliative care due to exacerbation of symptoms or a new health emergency. As such, the paramedic has a key role in managing symptoms or liaising with other members of the patient’s palliative care team to provide appropriate care. The results should inform integrated systems of care that involve ambulance services in the planning and delivery of community-based palliative care.
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