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Health emergency management in Aotearoa New Zealand: Making sense of professional development

Denise Blake, PhD, Patricia Niland, PhD, David M. Johnston, PhD


Objective: To explore how health emergency management (HEM) personnel make sense of professional development, such as education and training, in their everyday roles and responsibilities within an increasingly complex emergency management and disaster field.

Design: This in-depth qualitative study comprised of semistructured interviews with 10 Aotearoa New Zealand HEM personnel from a range of healthcare professions, including emergency managers, nurses, clinical support, and paramedics. The thematic, data-driven approach was exploratory. The research identified inductively significant thematic concepts relating to professional development from the health emergency personnel’s talk about their roles and responsibilities.

Results: The authors identified four themes relating to professional development in the participants’ talk: test yourself under pressure; selling what we do; under the pump; and real stuff that actually makes a difference. These themes represent shared sense-making about how the participants negotiated their professional development needs and the needs of others while performing their everyday roles and responsibilities.

Conclusions: Our findings support the production of local and contextually driven knowledge that highlights how HEM personnel discuss professional development as strengths, tensions, challenges, and knowledge gaps. These insights contribute to a broader understanding of what needs to be taken into account when developing competencies, skill sets, and training programs to promote professional development in an increasingly complex emergency management and disaster field.


emergency management, health professional, Aotearoa New Zealand, training, skill, competencies

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