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Opportunities and challenges for multi-professional units in rural areas

Teija Norri-Sederholm (Department of Leadership and Military Pedagogy, National Defence University, Helsinki, Finland)
Minna Joensuu (North Savo Emergency Department, Kuopio, Finland)
Johanna Lammintakanen (Department of Health and Social Management, University of Eastern Finland, Kuopio, Finland)

International Journal of Emergency Services

ISSN: 2047-0894

Article publication date: 1 March 2019

Issue publication date: 22 July 2019




The purpose of this paper is to investigate opportunities and challenges for multi-professional paramedic-firefighter units in small municipalities in Finland.


The data were collected by means of four focus group interviews conducted with managers (N =12) and a questionnaire comprising open-ended questions for the personnel working in the units (n =73). Data from both sources were analyzed using inductive content analysis.


The empirical results suggest that the use of multi-professional units (MPUs) may be one means of providing a better standard of service in rural areas. However, the working practices and different professional backgrounds in MPUs are considered challenging by the personnel. Managers had a broader perspective; during the interviews they raised matters such as citizen characteristics, legal issues like varying working hours, and economic aspects. Both the personnel and the managers agreed on the strengths and weaknesses of the MPU model in principle.

Practical implications

The results of this study may clarify the opportunities and challenges posed by MPUs in rural areas from the perspectives of personnel and managers.


The study provides novel information on MPUs comprising paramedics and firefighters, who function at the interface of emergency medical services and rescue services and who have new tasks in rural areas, including home healthcare support and accident prevention.



The study was part of a research project funded by the Fire Protection Fund, the foundation to support emergency care, and South-Eastern Finland University of Applied Sciences in 2016–2017.


Norri-Sederholm, T., Joensuu, M. and Lammintakanen, J. (2019), "Opportunities and challenges for multi-professional units in rural areas", International Journal of Emergency Services, Vol. 8 No. 2, pp. 163-174.



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