A QUALITATIVE INVESTIGATION INTO PARAMEDICS' THOUGHTS ABOUT THE INTRODUCTION OF NATIONAL EARLY WARNING SCORES

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Abstract

Background

The National Early Warning Score (NEWS) is a simple, rapid assessment tool developed by the Royal College of Physicians to standardise the assessment and monitoring of acutely ill patients and facilitate communication across settings. Ambulance Service introduced NEWS in 2013/14. Previous work in this area showed that paramedics were not using NEWS in practice so this study explored the reasons why and how paramedics use, or don't use, NEWS in practice.

Methods

Qualitative study using a pragmatic approach. Semi-structured interviews were conducted on a purposive volunteer sample of 8 paramedics with a range of roles, locations and lengths of service. Interviews were digitally recorded and transcribed for analysis. Five stage framework analysis commenced in parallel with data collection.

Results

Two main themes emerged from the data. The first theme was when and how paramedics used NEWS in their decision making. All participants thought that they, and their peers, collected all the observations necessary to calculate a NEWS but that it didn't enter their thoughts until after decisions had been made and were being documented. Participants saw NEWS as a tool to support their decisions but also thought NEWS may be beneficial for triggering decisions by non-paramedic ambulance staff.

Results

The second theme was how interactions with other healthcare professionals impacted on paramedics' use of NEWS. The reception participants received when handing a NEWS over at hospital had a strong influence on their continuing use of NEWS. The perception that Emergency Department staff weren't interested in NEWS acted as a negative influence on pre-hospital practice apart from one area where the local hospital encouraged the use of NEWS which had a localised positive reinforcing effect.

Conclusions

Paramedics use NEWS to support rather than trigger decisions. The perceived importance placed on information handed over at hospital influences paramedics pre-hospital practice.

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