Perception of EMS leaders and supervisors towards the challenges faced by saudi female paramedics in the workplace.

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Introduction

The public healthcare system in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) accounts is highly valued in the country. The emergency medical service (EMS) is one of the essential services that the government offers in its public health institutions. According to Alwidyan, Trainor, and Bissell (2020), EMS refers to the comprehensive system that includes a network of personnel, equipment, and resources that deliver emergency aid to the community (Steeps, Wilfong, Hubble, & Bercher, 2017). The staff in the EMS includes medical technicians, paramedics, dispatchers, and medical directors (Leggio, Miller, & Panchal, 2020). The paramedics should have advanced skillsets to help in the administration of medications, provision of advanced airway management, and physical examination. The government acknowledges that EMS paramedic positions are not reserved for men alone. Women ought to play an essential part in this service; thus, they should be encouraged to join the paramedic roles. The role of females in emergency services has a long history from the times of World War II when they replaced men in firefighting services (Moseley, 2017), where they were regular in the firefighting department. These aspects demonstrate their ability to work efficiently in emergency fields as paramedics.

Patients have a right to choose the person providing their medical service. According to Waldron, Finalle, Tsang, Lesser, and Mogelof (2012),the frequency of declining prehospital care reduces when the provider is a female. The need to recruit women paramedics in the EMS increases globally (Crowe et al., 2020). In conservative cultures such as KSA, this deficiency is more evident (AlShammari, Jennings, & Williams, 2019). The country has high preservation for traditional customs, such as specific roles for a particular gender. Hamam, Bagis, AlJohani, and Tashkandi (2015) investigated the acceptability of care providers by Saudi patients and found out that 17.7% of females were reluctant to have male providers in the absence of male guardians. Besides, the reluctance of some males to care for females may lower the chances of survival of such patients in case of emergencies (MacLean, Hunt, Smith, & Wyke, 2017). Thus, it is essential to train and recruit more female paramedics to save female patients from the embarrassment of receiving care from males and improve their health outcomes.

Healthcare institutions appreciated this challenge and started enforcing measures to save the situation. For instance, hospitals in Kuwait began allowing female paramedics to work in the night shifts to help in occasions when males cannot work (Alharthy et al., 2018). The KSA is a highly conservative and religious country that enforces strict rules regarding the interaction between men and women (Helmold, Samara, Abusini, & Nelson, 2020). It urgently needs to train and recruit females to join the paramedic profession and cover the deficiency gaps. However, little information is known about the perception of key stakeholders in this process – the EMS leaders and managers. It may be of public and patient interest to recruit these healthcare providers, but without a positive attitude from their first-level leaders, their activities may not be as practical. This information is vital to institute and enforce appropriate policies to cushion the paramedics from any challenge on their way.

The present study investigates the perception of EMS experts such as leaders, managers, and academicians towards female paramedics and the challenge that these healthcare providers face in the Saudi Arabian workforce. The government should have this information to inform critical decisions such as public education on the role of women in the medical fields as well as preparing the leaders to relate with female paramedics and enhance their work output efficiently.

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