Newcastle University Business School

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“Angels in green” or “a small, furry mammal”? Exploring the Mixed Identity Metaphors of England’s Paramedic Profession

Date/Time: Wednesday 25 October, 16:00

Venue: Room 4.25, Newcastle University Business School

Speaker: Leo McCann, University of Manchester

This paper, based on over three years of ethnographic research on England’s ambulance service, explores the ongoing development of the paramedic as an increasingly sophisticated clinical and professional role. It does this with a sensitivity to the fractures that run deep in the complex field of pre-hospital care. Central to the discussion is the tension between the increasingly clinical and academic bearing of the aspirant paramedic profession and the highly managerialist and often unsupportive tendencies of NHS ambulance trusts. Through sociological observations, focus groups, and interviews, the paper explores the varied behavioural, conversational, and metaphorical markers of professional identity. It pays particular attention to new and unexpected contestations that have broken out as a result of the paramedics’ professional project, such as the development whereby paramedics are increasingly working outside of emergency ambulance settings. While recognizing the diffuse and multiple forms of professional identity, ultimately the paper argues that the professionalization project of paramedics has had some notable successes, but that the profession – and the workers embodying it - continue to face severe conflicts and challenges. The paper contributes to ongoing discussions around how scholarly literature on ‘the professions’ or ‘professionalism’ might best grapple with the growing complexity, diffuseness, and porosity of occupational identities.