A team of healthcare administration faculty found new evidence of gender discrimination among paramedics, according to their study.
These teachers, based at BYU-Idaho, analyzed data from the Field Internship Student Data Acquisition Project, which collects data about students in emergency medical services. They studied almost 15,000 emergency 911 calls to see how internships experiences differed between male and female paramedic interns.
They studied whether interns had a chance to perform three advanced paramedic skills: placing IVs, intubating patients and administering medicine. The group hypothesized that males would get more opportunities.
“What we found was that there was discrimination if you were a female,” said John Lewis, one of the authors of the study and a healthcare administration faculty member. “You simply don’t get the same opportunities as your male counterparts, but what we found surprising in the study was, if you were female, and you had a female preceptor (a paramedic mentor), you were even less likely to get the opportunity to perform skills than if you had a male preceptor. So, that was a little surprising to us.”
This held true for IV placement and intubation, but not medication administration; the guess in the study is that a preceptor would view this as a low-risk procedure.
Lewis said they’re not sure why a female intern would fare worse under a female preceptor, but they only performed IV placement 36 percent of the time, as compared with 43 percent of male interns/male preceptors, or even the 41 percent of female interns/male preceptors.
In the medical field, Lewis said, gender bias can affect both men and women. For instance, in 2008, only 10 percent of licensed nurses were male, and many of these male nurses reported gender bias.
Women also face gender discrimination and alienation in the medical field, especially as they move into roles not traditionally held by women. Only 31 percent of paramedics were female in 2013, but only 5 percent of career firefighters—a role often filled by paramedics because it requires emergency medical training—were female between 2002 and 2016.
Dibe Hall, an EMT and PathwayConnect student, found she was treated well as she started out, but the further she went, the harder it was to prove herself and compete against her male counterparts.
“I had applied for a 911 position,” Hall said. “I had been an EMT for about three years more than the other applicants, I had recommendations … more certifications and (continuing) education. … I had interviewed really well, but they decided to go with another candidate.”
According to Hall, this candidate was a decent EMT but had a disciplinary action on his record.
Betsy Mendiola, an intern paramedic in California, said she thinks things are changing for female paramedics, but there are still “old school medics” who constantly question her judgment.
Shelby Johns, another intern paramedic in California, said her fire department internship treated her professionally, but she still feels like female paramedics are not taken as seriously as males.
“Being a new medic is tough on its own, but it’s even worse when you feel as though no one is taking you serious(ly),” Johns said. “Women in (emergency medical services) have come a long way from the beginning. There are more and more of us out there.”
Female paramedics not getting the practice they need could be a major problem: The authors pointed out that if female paramedics weren’t getting the training their male counterparts were, future patients might even be endangered.
The data the team collected did not actually include the preceptor’s gender, only their name. Because of this, they had to guess the preceptor’s gender based on their name. Data with unisex or ambiguous names were not included in the study.
The data also didn’t include what the preceptor did during the call; when the intern did not perform a skill, did that mean the preceptor had done it? Or did it simply mean the patient didn’t need an IV, tube or medication? The data doesn’t provide an answer to that.
The team, composed of John Lewis, Tyler Watson, Eli Lankford and Matthew Miles, is working on getting the article published.