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BIOL121 Human Biological Science 1

Unit rationale, description and aim

Paramedics encounter a myriad of pharmaceuticals, whether prescribed medications, illicit drugs or those administered in paramedic practice. Therefore, to safely and effectively manage such a variety of patients, students will be introduced to a broad range of common medications, as well as those specific to paramedicine including their effects, interactions, the underpinning research and the legislation and principles that guide their administration.  

Building upon the foundational knowledge established in BIOL121, this unit will support the development of components associated with clinical decision-making. The unit will also aid understanding and application of pharmacotherapy within current and subsequent units. Students will then be able to apply an informed, evidence-based approach to pharmacotherapy, as to devise and implement safe, evidence-based treatment plans. 

This unit aims to provide the pharmacological and toxicological knowledge to interpret the effect of agents in the clinical setting, enabling students to be a skilled and safe paramedic practitioner. 

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 - Summarise the principles of specific pharmacotherapy and toxicology in paramedicine and how they impact body systems, pathophysiology and the patient’s experience (GA8, GA9)

LO2 - Evaluate the evidence-base that underpins the use of pharmacological agents in contemporary paramedicine (GA4, GA7, GA8, GA10)

LO3 - Apply targeted pharmacotherapy to care plans for a range of patient conditions encountered in paramedicine (GA6)

Graduate attributes

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

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information

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

GA10 - utilise information and communication and other relevant technologies effectively

Professional Capabilities for a Registered Paramedic

The Paramedicine Board of Australia is responsible for assessing, consulting on and setting the standards for paramedics practicing in Australia. These standards and relevant domains are articulated in the Professional Capabilities for a Registered Paramedic document. The learning outcomes of this unit are matched to the relevant capabilities, in order to align your development with the requirements of a paramedic.  

Standard/Attributes/CriteriaLearning Outcomes

Domain 1: Professional and ethical conduct 

1.1, 1.2, 1.4 


Domain 2: Professional communication and collaboration 



Domain 3: Evidence-based practice and professional learning 

3.1, 3.2, 3.3 

LO1, LO2, LO3 

Domain 4: Safety, risk management and quality assurance 

4.1, 4.4, 4.5, 4.6 

LO1, LO2, LO3 

Domain 5: Paramedicine practice 

5.2, 5.3, 5.4, 5.6 

LO1, LO3 

National Safety and Quality Health Service Standards (Second Edition)

The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care Standards developed in this unit are:

Standards/Attributes/CriteriaLearning Outcomes

Medication Safety

LO1, LO3


Topics will include: 

Paramedic practice 

  • Legal responsibilities and classification of pharmacological agents 
  • Drug calculations 
  • Bias of a biomedical paradigm and dogma 
  • Risks 

Principles of pharmacotherapy and drug action 

  • Review of anatomy, physiology and pathophysiology 
  • Pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of drugs used in paramedicine 
  • Routes of administration 
  • Effects of pharmacological agents on body systems 
  • Drug interactions 
  • People’s qualitative experiences 

Pharmacological considerations to support the care and management of specific aetiologies in the context of contemporary paramedic practice: 

  • Pain  
  • Respiratory 
  • Cardiovascular 
  • Endocrine  
  • Gastrointestinal 
  • Infections 
  • Autonomic and central nervous system 
  • Other relevant body systems 

Principles of toxicology 

  • Toxicology and poisoning  
  • Envenomation 
  • Illicit drugs 
  • Polypharmacy 

 Research literacy skills  

  • Qualitative and quantitative approaches to research  
  • Critical appraisal of the pharmacotherapy evidence-base 

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This Unit provides teaching and learning strategies that engage students with materials, concepts and experiences that will support achievements of the aims and objectives of the Unit as well as relevant Graduate Attributes and professional capabilities. PARA214 will develop knowledge of pharmacology and toxicology within the context of paramedicine. Usually situated in the second year, PARA214 continues to build upon established skills and assists students to become both an independent and social learner. Delivery methods will be multi-modal and comprised of virtual/online environments and face to face workshops.  

Online learning will assist students to acquire the fundamental theoretical concepts necessary for paramedicine. The information, delivery and exercises will be constructed in digestible portions which will allow for ease of understanding, flexibility and respect for individual learning styles. As students will begin to apply the concepts in the subsequent workshops, it is expected that they will have completed the online learnings before attending the face-to-face component.  

The workshops will allow students to use the fundamental concepts acquired from online learning, apply pertinent skills, analytical thinking, engage in discussion and group work so students can begin to solve the case-based challenges posed. These challenges are designed with a real-world focus to apply knowledge to relevant clinical contexts.   

It is expected that students will undertake a total 150 hours of study for this unit. The hours will comprise of the face-to-face methods, online learning and self-directed study in which students engage with a range of online resources, readings, and prepare for and/or undertake assessments  

Assessment strategy and rationale

A range of assessment items consistent with University assessment requirements and policy will be used to ensure students achieve the unit learning outcomes, attain the graduate attributes and the meet professional capabilities required in paramedicine. With the ethos that assessments support and guide learning, students will see a direct relationship between each task and their development. 

The information graphic poster enables students to create a tangible, visual learning tool for peers. This task requires students to refine a significant volume of information to display the crucial, interesting and relevant content in a concise, word-limited format. Students may apply the developed skills in the future at conferences, or to assist peers to understand evolving or commonly misunderstood issues in paramedicine.   

Building upon this foundation students will then engage in the creation of a podcast discussing pharmacology in the setting of paramedicine. This task will allow greater scope to provide depth and elaborate on contentious topics, requiring evaluation of information and advocate and explain considered position. This will further develop the ability to convey important concepts to peers and within the wider paramedicine community.  

The exam allows students to showcase a broad understanding of the knowledge inherent in this unit and its specific application within a professional context, which will direct future practice as a paramedic. These assessments will build knowledge and skills which, by the conclusion of this programme, will enable students to graduate as a safe and effective practitioner.   

To pass this unit, students are required to submit all assessment tasks and gain an aggregate mark of 50%.  

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Assessment Task 1: Information Graphic Poster 

Enables students to summarise their knowledge in a concise manner to create a tangible, visual learning tool for their peers.  



GA8, GA9

Assessment Task 2: Podcast 

Allows students to evaluate and interpret information and advocate and explain their findings. 


LO2, LO3

GA4, GA6, GA7, GA8, GA10

Assessment Task 3: Written Exam 

Enables students to demonstrate a broad understanding of the principles and application of pharmacotherapy and toxicology.  


LO1, LO2, LO3

GA4, GA6, GA7, GA8, GA9, GA10


Representative texts and references

Chisholm-Burns, M.A., Schwinghammer, T., Malone, P.M., Kolesar, J.M., Lee, K.C., Bookstaver, P.B, (2019). Pharmacotherapy Principles & Practice (5th ed.). New York, NY. McGraw Hill 

Bryant, B., & Knights, K. (2015). Pharmacology for health professionals (5th ed). Chatswood, NSW: Elsevier Australia. 

Bullock, S., & Hales, M., (2018) Principles of Pathophysiology (2nd ed.). Melbourne, VIC: Pearson Australia. 

Curtis, K., & Ramsden, C. (2019). Emergency and trauma care for nurses and paramedics (3rd ed.). Chatswood, NSW: Elsevier Australia. 

Hall, J.E., (2015). Guyton And Hall Textbook of Medical Physiology. (13th ed.). Chatswood, NSW: Elsevier. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier. 

Talley, N.J. & O’Connor, S. (2018). Talley & O’Connor’s Clinical Examination. (8th ed.). Volumes 1 and 2. Chatswood, NSW: Elsevier. 

Tortora, G., & Derrickson, B. (2016). Principles of anatomy and physiology (15th ed). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley and Sons. 

Townsend, R., & Luck, M. (2019). Applied paramedic law and ethics (2nd ed.). Australia and New Zealand. Sydney: Elsevier. 

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