Pre-hospital Care

Paramedicine & Prehospital Emergency Careparamedic-holding-child

Paramedicine is a relatively young profession. Only a generation ago ambulance 'drivers' began with a simple first aid course and learnt much of what they did 'on the job'. Then in the late 1970s paramedic practice underwent an enormous expansion – ECGs and defibrillators became portable, IV lines were set up outside of hospital and fluids run, and patients no longer had to wait until hospital to receive the life-saving drugs they needed.

The second great paramedic expansion was education. Paramedics now graduate from the Auckland University of Technology's Discipline of Paramedicine & Emergency Management with a Bachelor of Health Science (Paramedicine). The major NZ ambulance services now require new staff to hold this degree qualification before they can practice as paramedics.

The third great wave of expansion in paramedic professionalism is RESEARCH. This is very current and new. We are asking: Does what we do really make a difference? What aspects of our practice are most effective? Are there better ways of providing optimal patient care, for the various acute medical and traumatic conditions we deal with? Research is the way that will determine the future direction of the profession. It is the way for paramedics to stand up and control the destiny of their own profession. And for the first time paramedics are doing their own research. We are becoming scientists in our own right. 

AUT offers two research degrees for paramedics: the Master of Philosophy (MPhil) and the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). At present we have two doctoral candidates: one is an operational paramedic looking at new prehospital initiatives for STEMI patients; the second is a paramedic educator studying how we treat stroke patients.

AUT has strong links with St John Ambulance, NZ's largest ambulance provider, and much of our clinical research is done in collaboration with St John. For example, right now we are jointly reviewing use of the 12-lead ECG transmission facility recently set up in a major urban Emergency Department. Will this new facility significantly reduce time delays in ED? This project fits nicely within our chosen research themes:  

  • Cardiovascular Disease;
  • Injury Prevention;
  • Human Dimensions (including Ethics).

These themes help explain our place and commitment within the Interdisciplinary Trauma Research Centre (ITRC).

Several Successes from 2013:

  • Wallen R, Tunnage B, Wells S. The 12-lead ECG in the emergency medical service setting: how electrode placement and paramedic gender are experienced by women. Emerg Med J. Published Online First: 3rd July 2013, doi: 10.1136/emermed-2013-202826
  • Davis PR, Howie GJ. The accuracy of New Zealand paramedics' clinical decision-making in the application of an autonomous pre-hospital thrombolysis protocol. (Winner Best Paper in the category Higher Degree, Paramedics Australasia Conference 2013.)
  • Davey P, Whatman C, Dicker B. The effect of paramedic position on external chest compression quality. (Winner Best Poster, Paramedics Australasia Conference, 2013.)
  • Bronwyn Tunnage, Senior Lecturer at Paramedicine & Emergency Management, was the recipient of a very prestigious Clinical Research Training Fellowship from the Health Research Council of New Zealand. This will allow Bronwyn to pursue her three-year doctoral project: Paramedic response to acute stroke: investigating current practice and outcomes.


For inquiries about paramedic research at AUT, contact

Dr Graham Howie, Research Leader orPaul Davey, Head of School