The Pre-Hospital Emergency Care Council (PHECC) has a responsibility and a mandate to facilitate prehospital research, and research has been identified as a high priority by Council members since the inception of PHECC. To date PHECC has commissioned and supported a variety of research which has targeted key priorities and been very productive. However, research capacity within the practitioner workforce has not progressed as much as clinical capacity has since PHECC’s inception.
The Centre for Prehospital Research in the Graduate Entry Medical School at the University of Limerick (CPR-UL) created a National Prehospital Research Strategy for PHECC in 2008. The goals of this strategy were to: gauge current levels of prehospital research activity in Ireland, ascertain the research strengths that exist in the Irish prehospital community, pinpoint the obstacles to high quality research in the prehospital arena, determine the building blocks for a national prehospital research culture, outline an implementation plan for the strategy, and identify expected and measurable short and long-term outcomes of implementing this research strategy.
CPR-UL has facilitated the conduct of several studies that involved practitioners. However, ten years later, the development of research capacity within the practitioner workforce has not progressed as much as hoped. A culture of research provides a supportive context in which research is uniformly expected, discussed, produced, and valued. We propose that a culture of research does not yet exist among Irish prehospital practitioners. While a number of practitioners have pursued and completed BSc and MSc degrees in both the University of Limerick and University College Dublin, the dissemination of much of this knowledge has not occurred. Peer-reviewed publication output from PHECC registered practitioners is sparse. Practitioner led research that is presented at scientific meetings is rare. As previously outlined in A National Prehospital Research Strategy, a need still exists to introduce research and associated skills into the education system and working environment of practitioners. The characteristics of institutions that facilitate research productivity include: the promotion of a research culture; mentoring by established scholars; communication with a professional network; rewards for research; brokered opportunities.
In an attempt to address some of these institutional characteristics, the Irish College of Paramedics has to date supported, and encouraged, research and scholarly activity by PHECC registered practitioners, through the following means:
- Launched a peer-reviewed, open-access journal – Irish Journal of Paramedicine – in June 2016 to provide a free, easily accessible location for practitioners to publish their research. [culture]
- Redesigned the members section of the ICoP website to include a section highlighting Latest Irish Research, Case Studies and Professional Articles. [culture, communication]
- Deposited a copy of all IJP research articles and ICoP produced publications with Lenus, the Irish health repository, ensuring research findings are freely accessible to all practitioners. [culture]
- Provided a free membership advice service, whereby members can be placed with an appropriate mentor to develop their education, research or leadership skills. [mentoring]
- Represented the profession both formally and informally to various bodies and organisations, including PHECC, the University of Limerick, the IJP Editorial Board, University College Cork, the Paramedic Association of Canada, the Turkish Paramedic Association, the College of Paramedics (UK and NI), and Canadian Paramedicine. [brokered opportunities]
- Established international research relationships with the National Association of EMS Educators, Canadian EMS Research Network, the Prehospital Care Research Forum at UCLA and the EMS Gathering Organising Committee through membership of various committees and working groups. [communication, brokered opportunities]
Research capacity building, the “process of individual and institutional development which leads to higher levels of skills and greater ability to perform useful research” is essential not only to the development of the profession in Ireland, but to the ability to provide safe, evidence-based care to patients.
‘A National Prehospital Research Strategy’ identified several impediments to prehospital research in Ireland.  Those which this proposal seeks to address include:
- Practitioners have little or no opportunity to develop research skills
- Insufficient funding exists to support research projects
- A research culture has not developed in prehospital care
This is not unique to Ireland. In Canada, the ‘Canadian National EMS Research Agenda’ identified “the need for further education and training in research, expanding existing opportunities” as a key priority. In addition, several other suggestions were made, which this proposal aims to achieve also.
- Increase funding opportunities for EMS research infrastructure and studies.
- Provide scholarships for EMS providers, managers and physicians to take research-based graduate degrees
- Information should be purposefully disseminated to EMS providers about EMS research activities
The ‘National EMS Research Agenda’ in the USA also outlines that “funding is required to train new researchers and to help them establish their careers”. Research award schemes elsewhere have been well received and have demonstrated increased research output by award recipients.[7,8] The Irish College of Paramedics (ICoP) is a professional body, concerned with the development and promotion of the paramedic profession. It is on this basis that the Executive Committee of ICoP have submitted a proposal to PHECC to provide a funding stream to ICoP to administer a suite of research awards for prehospital practitioners in Ireland (who do not have to be ICoP members), with the aim of increasing research literacy, encouraging new researchers, and thus building research capacity within the profession in Ireland. In our estimation, this scheme will promote, strengthen and further develop practitioner led research in the country.
1. Centre for Prehospital Research University of Limerick. A National Prehospital Research Strategy. Limerick: 2008.
2. Cheetham A. Building a Culture of Research : Recommended Practices. 2014;(May):1–33.
3. Bland CJ, Center BA, Finstad DA, Risbey KR, Staples JG. A theoretical, practical, predictive model of faculty and department research productivity. Acad Med 2005;80(3):225–37.
4. Trostle J. Research capacity building in international health: Definitions, evaluations and strategies for success. Soc Sci Med 1992;35(11):1321–4.
5. Jansen JL, Soucha D. Canadian National EMS Research Agenda. Ottawa: 2013.
6. Sayre MR, White LJ, Brown LH, McHenry SD, National EMS Agenda Writing Team. National EMS Research Agenda. Prehospital Emerg Care 2002;6(3 Suppl):S1-43.
7. Nasir S, Ahmed J. Incentives Matter : the Role of Research Productivity Award in Increasing Scientific. 2013;32(3):251–6.
8. Miller DR, Wozny D. Research awards program of the Canadian Anesthesiologists’ Society/Canadian Anesthesia Research Foundation: survey of past recipients. Can J Anaesth 2007;54(4):314–9.