Paramedic attitudes towards prehospital spinal care: a cross-sectional survey

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McDonald, Neil
Kriellaars, Dean
Pryce, Rob T.
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Abstract Background The optimal application of spinal motion restriction (SMR) in the prehospital setting continues to be debated. Few studies have examined how changing guidelines have been received and interpreted by emergency medical services (EMS) personnel. This study surveys paramedics’ attitudes, observations, and self-reported practices around the treatment of potential spine injuries in the prehospital setting. Methods This was a cross-sectional survey of a North American EMS agency. After development and piloting, the final version of the survey contained four sections covering attitudes towards 1) general practice, 2) specific techniques, 3) assessment protocols, and 4) mechanisms of injury (MOI). Questions used Likert-scale, multiple-choice, yes/no, and free-text responses. Exploratory factor analysis (EFA) was used to identify latent constructs within responses, and factor scores were analyzed by ordinal logistic regression for associations with demographic characteristics (including qualification level, gender, and years of experience). MOI evaluations were assessed for inter-rater reliability (Fleiss’ kappa). Inductive qualitative content analysis, following Elo & Kyngäs (2008), was used to examine free-text responses. Results Two hundred twenty responses were received (36% of staff). Raw results indicated that respondents felt that SMR was seen as less important than in the past, that they were treating fewer patients than previously, and that they follow protocol in most situations. The EFA identified two factors: one (Judging MOIs) captured paramedics’ estimation that the presented MOI could potentially cause a spine injury, and another (Treatment Value) reflected respondents’ composite view of the effectiveness, importance, and applicability of SMR. Respondents with advanced life support (ALS) qualification were more likely to be skeptical of the value of SMR compared to those at the basic life support (BLS) level (OR: 2.40, 95%CI: 1.21–4.76, p = 0.01). Overall, respondents showed fair agreement in the evaluation of MOIs (k = 0.31, 95%CI: 0.09–0.49). Content analysis identified tension expressed by respondents between SMR-as-directed and SMR-as-applied. Conclusion Results of this survey show that EMS personnel are skeptical of many elements of SMR but use various strategies to balance protocol adherence with optimizing patient care. While identifying several areas for future research, these findings argue for incorporating provider feedback and judgement into future guideline revision.
BMC Emergency Medicine. 2022 Sep 20;22(1):162