The bargaining of professionalism in emergency care practice: NHS Paramedics and higher education

Assaf Givati, Chris Markham, Ken Street

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Over the past two decades, as part of reforms to the National Health Service (NHS) and with it organizational changes to ambulance work in the UK, paramedic education has undergone a process of academisation and a shift from in-house, apprenticeship weeks-long occupational training, to university-based undergraduate programs. While the professional regulation and standardization of Allied Health Professionals’ (AHPs) education in high-income countries has captured scholarly attention, the study of paramedic practice is still in its infancy and there is a need to explore its evolvement in relation to the fluid societal-political circumstances affecting its provision and demand. Based on interviews with front-line paramedics, paramedic educators and Paramedic Science students in the South of England, this article examines how the reforms to paramedic education have impacted the professionalization of paramedics and their discourse of professionalism. Framed within to the ‘new’ sociology of professions, the case of British paramedics demonstrates the complex nature of the relationship between the university and professional practice. It appears that universities, the providers of paramedic education, are caught between two opposing discourses of professionalism: on the one hand, that of providing a platform for students’ socialization and engagement with professionalism ‘from within’ practice which is based on students’ common goals and mutual experiences, and, on the other hand, serving as a conduit for managerial/organizational strategies of professionalism which appear to undermine the role of university socialization.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)353-369
JournalAdvances in Health Sciences Education
Issue number2
Early online date10 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2018


  • paramedic science
  • professionalism
  • qualitative
  • education
  • professionalisation


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