A visual narrative inquiry of paramedic identity in Alberta
McIntosh, James Christopher
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Paramedics in Alberta have experienced several significant changes to their profession starting with the homogenization of municipal Emergency Medical Services (EMS) departments into a provincial healthcare model in 2009, and then again in 2016 with their inclusion into the Alberta Health Professions Act. This research examines a paramedic’s professional identity within the context of significant change, and, in particular, how EMS has branched into several non-traditional areas of service that see paramedics working ever closer with multidisciplinary healthcare teams. How these changes have had an impact on a paramedic’s self-ascribed identity is explored. Thirteen Alberta Health Services paramedics who work in a range of roles, and locations were each engaged in a semi-structured interview using a photo-elicitation methodology. Thematic saturation was achieved where the final interview did not provide new information about the EMS culture, and the self-ascribed identity of paramedics. Additionally, 105 pictures were evaluated for their content, and a frequency analysis of the artifacts present in the images was performed. The emergent data were analyzed using a multidisciplinary lens, where the concepts of social constructionism, semiotic meaning-making, and descriptive statistics combine to present an ethnography EMS culture in Alberta. Three overarching themes emerged where sub-culture faultlines exist across a range of demographic profiles, that paramedics have a strong sense of what is true in the EMS culture, and lastly that paramedics have a strong value orientation toward being connected to other first responder agencies and the commitment that one must make to be successful in a paramedic career. Keywords: social constructionism, photo-elicitation, organizational studies, semiotics, paramedic culture, paramedic identity
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