The Paramedic at Work A Sociology of a New Profession
Ambulance services and paramedics perform critical roles in contemporary healthcare economies. Trained to work in the field and respond rapidly to emergencies, societies have come to increasingly rely on ambulance services to deliver urgent care. Never has this need been more acute than in
recent years given intense social inequality, overstretched and underfunded health systems, and deadly pandemics.
Leo McCann offers the first book-length study of the paramedic profession in England. Based on in-depth interviews and ethnographic observation, The Paramedic at Work provides a detailed account of the complex realities of work in this fascinating occupation. Chapters explore the nature of work 'out
on the road', the peculiarities of ambulance organizational culture, the intensity of workplace stress and burnout, and the current and future trajectory of paramedic professionalism. The book documents the unique paradoxes experienced by those employed in this line of work. Ambulance staff are
trained to handle life-threatening trauma and disease, but most callouts consist of unplanned primary care. Paramedic work features wide autonomy but is also bound into an array of micromanaging performance indicators. Paramedics are trusted and respected in society but the profession is poorly
understood and employers can be unsupportive. However, no matter how intense the personal struggles can be, paramedic work also offers rare opportunities for meaningful and socially valued work. This book shows that the role and status of the paramedic is rapidly moving from a manual occupation
rooted in first aid and transportation, to a clinical profession of increasing scope, versatility, and social respect.
"The Paramedic at Work is a finely crafted study of those whose efforts drew widespread applause during the pandemic even if their work is not well understood. In cleverly zooming in and out of paramedics at work, McCann offers us a window into the growing pains of a new profession. Close-up encounters with the sad and surreal are carefully balanced with tales of pride and professionalism. This is at times a tough read - a confrontation with our destructiveness and folly - but ultimately a hopeful book too." Mark de Rond, Professor of Organisational Ethnography, Cambridge University