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Logo of bmcmeduBioMed Centralsearchsubmit a manuscriptregisterthis articleBMC Medical Education
BMC Med Educ. 2009; 9: 23.
Published online 2009 May 18. doi:  10.1186/1472-6920-9-23
PMCID: PMC2694182

An investigation of theory-practice gap in undergraduate paramedic education



Bachelor of Emergency Health (Paramedic) (BEH) students at Monash University undertake clinical placements to assist with the transition from student to novice paramedic. Anecdotally, students report a lack of opportunity to practise their clinical skills whilst on placements. The barriers to participation and the theory-practice gap have not been previously documented in Australian paramedic literature. The purpose of this study was to investigate the theory-practice gap for paramedic students by linking education and skill level to case exposure and skills praxis during clinical placements.


A cross-sectional retrospective study using a convenience sample of second and third year BEH undergraduate students. Ethics approval was granted.


Eighty four second and third year BEH students participated. 59.5% were female (n = 50), 40.5% were male (n = 34). Overall, students most commonly reported exposure to cardiac and respiratory cases and were satisfied with the number of cases encountered during placement. However, over half (n = 46) reported being exposed to < 50% of cases that allowed skills praxis. The most common barrier to participation (34.5%) was the opportunity to participate in patient care and 68% of student's were unsure if paramedics understood their role during clinical placements.


This study demonstrates that the majority of students were satisfied with their clinical placement experience; even though they were exposed to < 50% of cases that allowed skills practice. Identifying these educational barriers will assist in improving the quality and theory-practice gap of paramedic clinical education.

Articles from BMC Medical Education are provided here courtesy of BioMed Central