The increase and changes in the demand for emergency care require pro-active responses from the designers and implementers of the emergency care system. The role of Emergency Care Practitioner (ECP) was introduced in England to improve the delivery of emergency care in the community. The role was evaluated using cost-benefit approach and compared with other existing emergency care roles. An analysis of the cognitive elements (situation awareness (SA) and naturalistic decision making (NDM)) of the ECP job was proposed considering the mental efforts involved. While the cost-benefit approach can justify further spending on developing the role, a cognitive approach can provide the evidence in ensuring the role is developed to fulfil its purpose.
A series of studies were carried out to describe SA and NDM amongst ECPs in an ambulance service in England. A study examined decision-making process using Critical Decision Method interviews which revealed the main processes in making decision and how information was used to develop SA. Based on the findings, the subsequent studies focus on the non-clinical factors that influence SA and decision making. Data from a scoping study were used to develop a socio-technical systems framework based on existing models and frameworks. The framework was then used to guide further exploration of SA and NDM. Emergency calls that were assigned to ECPs over a period of 8 months were analysed. The analysis revealed system-related influences on the deployment of ECPs. Interviews with the ECPs enabled the identification of influences on their decision-making with respect to patient care. Goal-directed task analysis was used to identify the decision points and information requirements of the ECPs.
The findings and the framework were then evaluated via a set of studies based on an ethnographic approach. Participant observations with 13 ECPs were carried out. Field notes provided further insight into the characteristics of jobs assigned to the ECPs. It was possible to map the actual information used by the ECP to their information needs. The sources of the information were classified according to system levels. A questionnaire based on factors influencing decision-making was tested with actual cases. It was found that the items in the questionnaire could reliably measure factors that influence decision-making.
Overall, the studies identify factors that have direct and indirect influences on the ECP job. A coherent model for the whole emergency care systems can be developed to build safety into the care delivery process. Further development of the ECP role need to consider the support for cognitive tasks in light of the findings reported in this thesis.
A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.