Understanding Paramedics’ Experiences of Everyday Racism in Australia

Activity: Supervision/Examination/MentoringInternal HDR Supervision


Paramedics and healthcare practitioners originate from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds; however, people of colour and minority groups remain underrepresented, disadvantaged and discriminated in the job. Evidence shows these groups are statistically more likely to face racial discrimination from patients, colleagues and institutional structures. Racism experienced by paramedics is largely unexamined, with the form, frequency and perpetrators unknown.
This study aims to report on the impact of lived and witnessed racism by paramedics working in Australia. This is with the purpose of uncovering central themes across participants and comparing this to existing literature. Focus was maintained on the forms of racism experienced, source of discrimination and support provided. As the profession grows, this aims to bridge the gap in literature, analyse current procedure and promote action.
An inductive qualitative analysis was utilised to examine semi-structured interviews with paramedics. Twenty-one eligible participants were invited to interview through snowballing and passive social media techniques. Nine interviews were conducted and included in this study. Interview schedule was implemented to ascertain pertinent information to research questions.
Thematic organisation of data revealed issues of racial bias and everyday racism in the workplace. These experiences came from patients, colleagues and bystanders alike, leaving the practitioner with feelings of isolation, frustration and disrespect. Greater distress was caused from personally mediated experiences from other staff. Paramedics expressed that the subtle but consistent nature of this treatment felt unreportable and often dismissed.
Five central themes surrounding ambulance culture, structure, training, landscape and support highlight the presence of racism regardless of positive action by management or individuals. Overall, it was found to occur in all settings with no specific correlation to rural, regional or metropolitan areas. Specific procedures or support available to paramedics was similar across the board, regardless of employer. It has shown the additional considerations of behaivour and presentation by paramedics susceptible to racism.