Scotland’s first Paramedical Practice PhD graduand will collect his scroll at the University of Stirling next week.
Qualified paramedic David Fitzpatrick steps onto the stage at the Stirling summer graduation ceremony on Thursday (25 June) having completed his research doctorate.
“When I started at Stirling 10 years ago, I had only a postgraduate level certificate in pre-hospital care so if I can do it, then anyone can and for me, the more-the-merrier,” explains a modest David, 41. “I owe so much to the support of my colleagues and supervisors who helped me enormously.”
David, from Carluke, was a 22-year-old pool lifeguard when he decided to become a paramedic. Working his way up from non-emergency roles, he went on to serve as a single response crew member before switching his focus towards research study.
He still takes on monthly paramedic shifts in Glasgow and is regularly on call if an emergency occurs on campus.
David said: “If anything comes in that’s close to me and I’m on duty then I will respond. I can’t disclose what I have been to, but it’s anything that requires a 999 emergency call, where someone is very unwell. I do voluntary shifts to remain up-to-date, but it’s just not feasible or practical to do more combined with the research role.”
This role is a research collaboration between the Scottish Ambulance Service and the Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professions Research Unit (NMAHP-RU) in the University’s School of Health Sciences, with the collective aim of producing research which improves pre-hospital emergency care.
David’s PhD focused on hypoglycaemic emergencies, common occurrences for people with diabetes. This week is Diabetes Week – a UK-wide campaign to raise awareness of the increasingly common condition.
He said: “The research identified that a proportion of people who are treated at home by ambulance clinicians for a severe hypoglycaemic event experience repeat or recurrent severe hypoglycaemic events in the days and weeks thereafter.
“Despite referral advice from ambulance clinicians, very few people attend for follow-up care at the Emergency Department or with their primary diabetes care provider. This new knowledge helped inform the development of an intervention to ensure people who experience severe hypoglycaemic emergencies get the right treatment from the first emergency call-out and prevent further events.
“We developed a referral information leaflet and a follow-up telephone call from NHS 24, both of which reinforced the key messages on the importance of follow-up care. There is much that ambulance clinicians can do to ensure patients receive the right information on follow up care, with the intention of minimising repeat emergencies.”
The Scottish Ambulance Service has collaborated with the NMAHP Research Unit since 2005.
Past projects between the two - and other partners - include the development of a prioritised vehicle equipment check sheet to ensure each ambulance is appropriately equipped; measuring the effects of pre-hospital oxygen therapy for patients with severe chronic lung conditions; the development of a child harness transportation restraint, and determining consensus on the amount of equipment required for mass casualty incidents.
Current research focuses on improving the quality and safety of hypoglycaemic care and on improving care for psychiatric and self-harm patients being transferred to Accident & Emergency by ambulance.
Dr Edward Duncan, who supervised David throughout his PhD, said: “David worked tirelessly to gain his PhD. His studies clearly demonstrate the potential of research to develop clinically meaningful interventions which can transform patient care and service delivery. I am delighted that we will be continuing to work together with David and others in the Scottish Ambulance Service in the years to come.”
Jim Ward, Medical Director at the Scottish Ambulance Service, said: “David is an inspiration to everyone in the Service and his research will directly enhance the quality of pre-hospital care for patients across Scotland. Ambulance staff are highly skilled clinicians who make life changing interventions every day and rely on continued research to inform and support the development of new skills and procedures that will ultimately save more lives.”
David joins almost 400 graduands from the Schools of Health Sciences, Natural Sciences and Applied Social Science at the final of three conferment ceremonies. Stirling’s summer graduations, on Wednesday 24 and Thursday 25 June, recognise the achievements of more than 1500 graduands.
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