In April of 2011 a small but resolute group of visionary and passionate leaders from Australia, Canada, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates and the United States gathered in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada to openly discuss the potential future of paramedics and emergency medical responder personnel, systems and practice. The group consisted of managers, academics, and providers, and dubbed themselves the "Paramedic G5.” By the end of the inaugural session everyone agreed that the design, delivery and application of systems that utilize paramedics and other emergency medical providers must become a shared global expedition in order to meet the current and future needs of the populations which they serve.
Photo by J. "Jay" Albert Walker
The Paramedic G5 Meet in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada in April 2011
By identifying globally shared challenges the Paramedic G5 brought into focus a unique perspective that allowed all participants to get past some of the intrinsic and learned barriers to thinking well into the future. It was universally agreed that the profession was being harmed by internal divisions and a lack of clarity related to nomenclature; who was the professional and what is their profession called. Following the leadership of Canadian Paramedic Association, Paramedics Australasia, the International Roundtable on Community Paramedicine (IRCP) and others, it was determined that the group should advocate for the adoption and common use of following terms:
- The Paramedic is the professional practitioner
- A Paramedic Service is the provider of emergency medical services staffed by paramedics; and
- Paramedicine is the discipline and the area of medical study and knowledge.
In order to initiate the adoption of these terms it was agreed that the term “Paramedic” must come to include of all practitioners from basic to advanced life support responders as a starting point from which all providers can be educated to meet their expected role in the delivery of healthcare and to give the public one name associated with the profession. Similarly, Paramedic Services must be differentiated from the other components of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) systems which rightfully include public-safety communications practitioners to emergency room nurses and physicians. Finally, the study and understanding of Paramedicine must continue to be explored vigorously to understand the true impact, value and utility it has on the lives of the people we serve.
We anticipate that these terms will spur debate among the readers of the document. Readers must understand that it was no easy task to come to this decision. The ultimate goal of professional identity and growth outweighed the arguments for the retention of historically-based, sometime conflicting, and potentially divisive labeling of various practitioners. In order for emergency medical providers, regardless of name, to ever establish a profession capable of meeting the ever changing needs of the global community, one easily identified and understood name, like “Doctor” or “Nurse” is essential. To that end, the Paramedic G5 also adopted the naming convention espoused by the International Roundtable of Community Paramedicine that includes definitions for: primary care paramedic (Basic Life Support or BLS level), intermediate care paramedic (Advanced Life Support or ALS level), advanced care paramedic (ALS level), critical care paramedic, community paramedic (BLS or ALS level integrated with community health) and paramedic service.
The Paramedic G5 identified a wide variety of issues and opportunities to improve and evolve the provision of paramedic services, to advance the field of paramedicine, and support the paramedic profession. The need for a collaborative community of sharing, partnership and learning on the global stage is clear. The concept of initiating International Paramedic was sketched out and presented as a possible course of action following the Paramedic G5 meeting.