Credit points


Campus offering

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PARA104 Foundations of Paramedic Practice

Teaching organisation

150 hours of focused learning.

Unit rationale, description and aim

Mental health and illness has emerged as a major issue in the Australian health landscape. Mental illness contributes significantly to the burden of disease and the increasing costs of health care provision. This mental health unit is required by students to assist them to embed the foundational knowledge required by paramedics to respond to patients experiencing mental health conditions and crisis.

This unit develops students' knowledge of the physical, mental and biopsychosocial factors that contribute to personal, individual, family and community mental health. It also examines the role of paramedics and other health workers in caring for persons who have alterations to their emotional and mental wellbeing across the lifespan. This paramedic practice unit also contributes to the integration of theoretical and clinical concepts and their application in various health care environments. Knowledge and clinical practice skills developed in previous units will be extended through situation-based learning experiences within the simulation laboratory.

The aim of this unit is to assist students to develop paramedicine skills to provide safe, person-centred, evidence-based and collaborative paramedic care for individuals and families experiencing mental health alterations.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Outline social, developmental and cultural factors that impact on mental health and wellness; (GA1) 

LO2 - Discuss major mental health priorities and related strategies; 

LO3 - Reflect critically on the experiences of mental illness from consumer and carer perspectives (GA4) 

LO4 - Assess, evaluate and document a person’s mental health status and apply paramedic interventions to the management of patients experiencing emergency mental health issues; (GA3, GA4, GA6) 

LO5 - Describe the common approaches to the management of people with mental health diagnoses inclusive of prescribed groups of pharmacological agents, strategies for developing and evaluating therapeutic relationships and current consumer-centred approaches to management; (GA4,GA7) 

LO6 - Communicate with the interdisciplinary health care team in relation to patient care whilst maintaining an appreciation of the differences in accountability and responsibility between paramedic and other members of the interdisciplinary health care team (GA9) 

Graduate attributes

GA1 - demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity 

GA3 - apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA6 - solve problems in a variety of settings taking local and international perspectives into account

GA7 - work both autonomously and collaboratively 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 


CAA Competency Standards: 

Standard/Attributes/CriteriaLearning Outcomes

1. Acts in accordance with accepted standards of conduct and performance

LO2, LO4, LO5, LO6  

2. Makes informed and reasonable decisions 

LO4, LO5, LO6 

3. Demonstrates professional autonomy and accountability. 

LO4, LO5, LO6 

4. Develops and maintains professional relationships 

LO4, LO6 

5. Demonstrates the knowledge and understanding required for practice as a paramedic 

LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4, LO5, LO6 

6. Operates within a safe practice environment 

LO4, LO5 

7. Identifies and assesses health and social care needs in the context of the environment 

LO1, LO2, LO3 

8. Formulates and delivers clinical practice to meet health and social care needs within the context of the environment 

LO3, LO4, LO5, LO6 


Factors impacting on mental health and wellness – Social, developmental, cultural (including Australia’s Indigenous population 

Family risk factors - Domestic violence, sexual abuse, emotional and physical neglect 

Mental health priorities 

  • State, National and international mental health priorities and strategies 
  • Vulnerable populations – refugees, CALD, homeless, forensic, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, elderly 


Experiences of people with mental illness 

  • Discrimination, stereotyping and perpetuation of stigma 
  • Factors influencing attitudes 
  • Affirmative action 
  • Social inclusion 


Mental health promotion 

  • Myths of mental illness 
  • Developing self awareness 
  • Public and professional education 


Legal, professional and ethical issues 

  • Rights of the mentally ill 
  • Mental health policy 
  • Mental health legislation 
  • Professional boundaries 
  • Confidentiality 


Mental health assessment 

  • Paramedic Mental status assessment 
  • Other common assessment tools used in mental health 
  • Cultural safety 
  • Communication skills and active listening 
  • Documentation and handover 


Paramedic interventions and principles in the care of mentally ill 

  • Paramedic interventions – pharmacological and non-pharmacological  
  • Managing suicide and self harm 
  • Managing physical aggression 
  • Managing fear and anxiety in patients 
  • Transport of voluntary and involuntary patients 
  • Workplace health and safety, manual handling 


Common mental health alterations and disorders and related pathophysiology 

  • Disorders in children and adolescents 
  • Disorders affecting the elderly 
  • Schizophrenic disorders 
  • Mood disorders 
  • Personality disorders 
  • Anxiety disorders 
  • Eating disorders 
  • Substance-related disorders and dual diagnosis 
  • Somatoform and dissociative disorders 


Psychopharmacology for common mental illnesses/disorders 

  • Psychopharmacology 
  • Principles of pharmacological action of psychotropic medication 
  • Legal issues with psychotropic medications 
  • Major groups of psychotropic drugs 
  • Medication adherence issues 

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

Modes of delivery in this unit include lectures, tutorials, online activities and self-directed study. Consistent with adult learning and inquiry based learning principles, the teaching and learning strategies used within these modes of delivery will provide students with foundational knowledge and skills relevant to professional paramedic practice. These strategies will also support students in meeting the aim, learning outcomes and graduate attributes of the unit and the broader course learning outcomes. Learning and teaching strategies will reflect respect for the individual as an independent learner. Students will be expected to take responsibility for their learning and to participate actively with peers.  


Inquiry-based learning requires students to take responsibility for their learning and to participate actively within group activities. Inquiry-based learning also helps students to develop skills of collaboration and teamwork that are essential for working effectively with fellow paramedics in the field.  

Assessment strategy and rationale

A range of assessment procedures consistent with University assessment requirements will be used to meet the unit learning outcomes and develop graduate attributes.  


The assessments will provide an opportunity for students to demonstrate skills and knowledge required to care for those with mental health needs. The group presentation provides the student the opportunity to achieve sound communication skills which are required for all interactions as a health care professional; it assesses an understanding of issues specific to patient care of persons experiencing a mental health condition or crisis. Working in a group also helps students develop communication and effective work strategies essential to working in a team environment such as the paramedic team environment.  The written essay and examination assess key knowledge specific to the physical, mental and biopsychosocial factors that contribute to personal, individual, family and community mental health.  


These assessments are required to build student knowledge and skills which, by the conclusion of this programme, will enable the student to graduate as a safe and effective practioner.  

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Essay (1500 words) 

Enables students to demonstrate understanding of physical, mental and biopsychosocial factors that contribute to personal, individual, family and community mental health conditions and crisis. 


LO1, LO2 


Group Work  

Enables students to achieve sound communication skills and understanding of key issues in mental illness and mental health crisis  


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4, LO5, LO6 

GA1, GA3, GA4, GA6, GA7, GA9 

Written Examination (2 hours) (Central Examination Period) 

Enables students to demonstrate understanding of physical, mental and biopsychosocial factors that contribute to personal, individual, family and community mental health conditions and crisis. 


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4, LO5, LO6 

GA1, GA3, GA4, GA6, GA7, GA9 

Representative texts and references

Ambulance Victoria (2016). Ambulance Victoria clinical practice guidelines for ambulance and MICA paramedics. Doncaster: Ambulance Victoria. 

Barker, P. (2011). Mental health ethics: The human context. Abingdon, Oxon UK: Routledge. 

Bryant, B., & Knights. K. (2011). Pharmacology for health professionals ( 4th ed.). Chatswood, N.S.W.: Elsevier Australia. 

Caltabiano, M., Byrne, D., Martin, P., & Sarafino, E. (2008). Health psychology: Biopsychosocial interactions. An Australian perspective (2nd ed.). Milton, Brisbane: Wiley. 

Couzos, S., & Murray, R. (Ed.) (2008). Aboriginal primary health care: An evidence-based approach (3rd ed.). South Melbourne, Vic: Oxford University Press. 

Forrester, K., & Griffiths, D. (2015). Essentials of law for health professionals (4th ed.). Chatswood, N.S.W.:  Elsevier Australia. 

Jones, K., & Creedy, D. (2012). Health and human behaviour (3rd ed.). South Melbourne, Vic: Oxford University Press. 

Meadows, G., Farhall, J., Fossey, E. Grigg, M., McDermott, F. & Singh, B. (Eds.) (2012). Mental health in Australia. Collaborative community practice (3rd ed.). South Melbourne, Vic: Oxford University Press. 

O’Toole, G. (2016). Communication: Core interpersonal skills for health professionals (3rd ed.). Chatswood, N.S.W. :Elsevier. 

Usher, K., Foster, K., & Bullock, S. (2009). Psychopharmacology for health professionals. Chatswood, N.S.W.: Elsevier. Australia. 

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