Ms Alannah Stoneley (pictured) from Lithgow, NSW, is the first in her family to go to university and is studying in the Charles Sturt School of Nursing, Paramedicine and Healthcare Sciences.
Alannah said she knew she wanted to be a paramedic from the age of 16 and that working as a paramedic offers so many unique opportunities that make it more than just a job.
“There is not just one particular thing that I am most looking forward to as a paramedic,” Alannah said.
“Rather, I am so excited to join such a diverse profession filled with knowledgeable peers where I can make a difference and still advocate for and continue my research into emergency health care in rural and remote areas.”
Alannah said throughout high school she was always interested in the health sciences and knew she wanted to work in health care.
“After doing work experience in nursing and other allied health areas, I was drawn to paramedicine through its unpredictable nature and uncontrolled environment,” Alannah said.
“I started my paramedicine career when I was 18 years old and began studying the Bachelor of Paramedicine straight out of high school.
“Since then I’ve had the opportunity to volunteer to provide first aid at events such as the Bathurst Cycling Classic and to conduct health checks at the Bathurst Family Fun Day and the Royal Bathurst Show.”
Alannah said that before she started her honours research, she had always had an interest in rural health and access to health care.
“This may stem from my upbringing in a rural town and having people around me struggle to access health care due to the difficulties of travelling into the city,” she said.
“In 2019 I had the opportunity to apply for the Dare to Know Student Paramedic Research scholarship, and while brainstorming research ideas for my application, the one which I could not get out of my head was the question about whether rural and remote Australians had enough access to emergency health care in the event of a life threatening emergency.
“When I was lucky enough to receive this scholarship I was introduced to lecturers Ms Clare Sutton and Associate Professor Judith Anderson who have since been my supervisors and mentors and have helped me develop my research topic into what it is today.”
Alannah’s research project interviewed participants who had accessed emergency health care due to a moderate to severe asthma attack in rural or remote NSW within the last five years.
She conducted semi-structured interviews via ZOOM calls, asking participants to discuss how they use emergency healthcare in NSW.
“I asked them what influenced them to call for an ambulance, and discussed any self-management strategies they have adopted for managing asthma attacks,” she said.
“While the data is currently being analysed, the main theme which has presented itself was how the individual’s education and experience with asthma influenced their decision to access emergency healthcare.
“Other themes include ambulance travel times compared to the distance from the hospital, access to and availability of ambulance resources, and the belief that participants did not want to be a burden on ambulance staff.
“Cost was also a factor for those participants without ambulance cover, however, this was not considered in situations perceived to be life-threatening.”
Alannah explained that the outcomes from this research will develop a baseline on what factors impact decision-making when accessing emergency health care.
“The research gives the patients a voice to get to the heart of the challenges and barriers faced in rural and remote NSW,” she said.
“This data can help determine where paramedic access needs to be improved as well as which areas need more health education and health promotion on the topic of accessing emergency health care.”
Alannah recently gave an oral presentation and poster presentation of her literature review at STUCON2021, and will present the findings of her research at the Australasian College of Paramedicine International Conference (ACPIC) in September.
She said presenting this data at conferences will help to start the conversation about what can be done to achieve equity in accessing emergency health care in rural and remote NSW.
“This helps to raise awareness from the patient’s point of view about the confidence they have in accessing emergency health care,” Alannah said.
“Conference presentations are also a great platform for audiences to ask questions about the research topic, and this can spark further ideas to be investigated.”