Clinical decision making by South African paramedics in the management of acute traumatic pain
Mulder, Richard Kevin
MetadataShow full item record
Background In the emergency setting, the onus is on the individual practitioner’s ability to make critical decisions at critical moments in order to provide the best level of care to their patient. In order to ensure that these decisions fall in line with the best interests of the patient, the South African paramedic requires a better understanding of how to arrive at such a decision; they need to understand the clinical decision making process. This study focused on South African paramedic clinical decision making with specific reference to acute traumatic pain management, with the aim of determining the factors which influence South African paramedic clinical decision making by revealing the current method of pain management employed by South African paramedics, how they view the priority of pain management in the continuum of care and if there were any context specific factors influencing their clinical decision making. Methods A mixed method design was used to determine the factors contributing to the clinical decision making process of South African paramedics in the acute pain management of patients with acute traumatic pain. A mixture of qualitative and quantitative approaches was utilized by means of a research questionnaire as well as in-depth interviews. The questionnaires were targeted at all South African paramedics while the in-depth interviews were conducted with five participants who had been purposefully selected from the questionnaire respondents. The data analysis was conducted in a descriptive manner in order to inform the explanatory nature of the answers to the research questions and objective. Results The results provided insight into the current methods and clinical decision making processes employed by South African paramedics in the management of patients’ experiencing acute traumatic pain. The study determined that the South African paramedic’s clinical decision making process involves three key phases in the acute traumatic pain management setting, the assessment phase, the initiation/pain management phase and the conclusion/re-evaluation phase, with each phase utilizing different decision making models, the intuitive/humanist model, the hypothetico- deductive model and a model which combined both of the aforementioned models. In addition to this, numerous factors such as the provision of care in order to facilitate further management and transportation to an appropriate facility, which influenced clinical decision making, were identified. Amongst South African paramedics, pain management was identified as coming second only to the interventions required to manage immediately life threatening conditions in terms of the prioritization of treatment. Recommendations A variety of recommendations which included the need to further the development of clinical decision making and pain management through research and education as well as considerations for investigation into the potential expansion of South African paramedic scope of practice in the pain management environment were made.