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Caring for older people in prehospital emergency care: can nurses make a difference?


  • Vidar Melby BSc, MPhil, RGN, RNT, PGCTHE,

  • Assumpta Ryan BSc, MEd, RMN, RGN, RNT, PGCTHE

Vidar Melby
Senior Lecturer
Institute of Nursing Research and School of Nursing
University of Ulster
Magee Campus
Derry BT48 7JL
Telephone: (+44) 028 71375227


Aims and objectives.  The aim of this paper is to explore older people's experiences in prehospital emergency care, and identify benefits and difficulties associated with developing a nurse-led ambulance service. Data were collected at sites in Sweden and Norway. Focus group interviews were conducted to enable the collection of data from paramedics, ambulance nurses and nursing students, while individual interviews were utilized to gather data from older people.

Background.  There is little research on the quality of care older people over 65 years old receive in prehospital emergency care. Older people often present with multiple pathology and diverse needs that nurses are well equipped to deal with, but presently there is no clearly defined role for nurses in prehospital emergency care in the United Kingdom, although other countries such as Sweden and Norway are developing an ambulance nurse role.

Conclusions.  If the multiple needs of older people were addressed in the prehospital field, a reduction in readmissions and increased functional ability might be achieved. Comprehensive training is required for ambulance staff to enable them to meet such needs. While nurses have a great foundation for this care, additional specialist ambulance training is required alongside a need for education on older people's needs and attitudes to older people.

Relevance to clinical practice.  The introduction of ambulance nurses will result in role differentiation between paramedics and ambulance nurses, which has the potential for creating role conflict. To ensure a smooth transition appropriate training and education for nurses and paramedics should be provided. The end result is a potentially greatly enhanced ambulance care provision, enabling high quality care to all patients.