The Paramedics Association of Canada recognizes the importance of patient safety, both in education and in their day-to-day activities. A reporting mechanism has been put in place where information on adverse events is shared across the country and groups involved in paramedic education recognize patient safety as a key competency for both seasoned practitioners and individuals new to the profession.
"As much as we talk about people who are currently practicing and the need for patient safety, we need to grow those individuals where patient safety is part of the framework of how they learn, and for individuals entering into the practice, patient safety is the place to start," says Pierre Poirier, Executive Director of the Paramedic Association of Canada.
The National Occupational Competencies Profile for Paramedics framework developed in 2001 and renewed in 2011 identified that patient safety competencies are required in educational content, but the details of those competencies were not explicitly outlined. The Paramedic Association of Canada has since adopted the CanMEDS framework, a competency-based approach to medical education, to align their work and how they will define their profession.
"It is more than a skills document that we are creating," says Poirier. "We are looking at competencies from a professional perspective of what are the roles of a paramedic and from that will fall out what are the core concepts, the key capabilities and the enabling capabilities. Two other pieces being developed in tandem are Standards of Practices and a Code of Ethics. These components all fit together to identify how patient safety competencies will be woven into the fabric of paramedic education going forward. "
To help determine roles, a group of paramedic PhDs was contracted to solicit key informants and help to define the roles of a paramedic. The Board of the Paramedics Association of Canada has since endorsed those roles and recognizes that patient safety is a cross cutting theme for the capabilities. Work is now underway to ensure that the key and enabling capabilities appropriately address patient safety. A key element going forward is to ensure that patient safety is held as a high priority in how the framework is created and how the profession is defined.
"Patient safety is not a given and it is not necessarily intuitive," says Poirier. "It is something that has to be learned, reviewed and reinforced. There is a whole pedagogy around patient safety and it is not something that we should ever assume. At the first point of failure if you think that is okay, there is a problem."
As a next step, the Paramedic Association of Canada will also look at furthering its professional standing through self-regulating Colleges and baccalaureate degree programs. "In terms of providing safe medical care, the true paramedic professional will understand why they are doing things, as much as being capable of doing them," says Poirier. "That is where you will reap the rewards and have a true understanding of the concepts, and a commitment to patient safety. We are taking a wholesome look so that we have the breadth and depth in the profession and the educational framework to support that."