How Paramedics Learn: The Role of Experience, Mental Models, and Analogical Reasoning

Date of Completion

January 2010


Education, Adult and Continuing|Education, Educational Psychology|Health Sciences, Medicine and Surgery




Because of their central role in treating patients, the effectiveness of EMS services depends on EMS professionals having the skills and knowledge to perform their jobs skillfully. The problem for administrators and policy makers who oversee EMS programs is how to create a learning system that effectively improves the medical service provided by Paramedics continuously. In this study, semi-structured interviews were conducted with eight experienced Paramedics at an exemplary ambulance agency. Data from this interpretive quality study were analyzed using a constant comparative. Participants indicated that their learning was enhanced by that components related to (1) their individual characteristics, (2) the quality of their experiences, and (3) features of their work environment. The individual characteristics that contributed to their learning included: a well-tuned learning orientation; a willingness to change their mental models; and an ability to use analogical reasoning skills. Experiences that contributed to their learning: challenged their current skill level; involved them emotionally; and involved mistakes or errors on their part. The environment in which they worked enhanced their learning by providing: access to information and resources; and access to skilled mentors. ^