Introduction: Access to emergency healthcare services and specialist care – particularly paramedic services – is more restricted in the rural and remote areas of Australia, and this disparity is amplified further as remoteness increases. This review aims to investigate the availability of current research regarding both the expanding nature of paramedicine roles in rural environments, and the impacts of rurality on the quality of out-of-hospital care provided to patients.
Methods: Arksey and O’Malley’s six-step methodological approach was used to perform a scoping review to assess the availability of literature. Key words including paramedic*, regional, rural, remote and role were inputted into the search engines Scopus, CINAHL and PubMed. Titles and abstracts of the 864 results were screened by all authors and inclusion/exclusion criteria applied, resulting in 13 remaining articles.
Results: The final 13 articles comprised differing data collection types and methodologies from nine separate studies conducted in either Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States, Saudi Arabia or Qatar. Approximately 2.5 million patients, 534 paramedics, 331 other healthcare professionals and 35 case studies were included in the total combined results of these studies.
Conclusion: Rural communities demonstrated increased mortality rates in out-of-hospital patients due to several factors including rostering, specialist service locations and limited resource availability. Factors which were beneficial to the outcomes of patients in rural settings included enhanced paramedic scopes of practice, the implementation of community paramedicine programmes and wider roles within the community for paramedics. A lack of research on the exact nature of these changing roles in rural paramedicine is evident.