Ability of the Australian general public to identify common emergency medical situations: Results of an online survey of a nationally representative sample

  • Author Footnotes
    1 ORCID: 0000-0002-7409-7007.
    Brennen W. Mills
    Correspondence to: Edith Cowan University, 270 Joondalup Drive, Joondalup, Western Australia 6027, Australia.
    1 ORCID: 0000-0002-7409-7007.
    School of Medical and Health Sciences, Edith Cowan University, Australia
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  • Author Footnotes
    2 ORCID: 0000-0002-8476-6075.
    Michella G. Hill
    2 ORCID: 0000-0002-8476-6075.
    School of Medical and Health Sciences, Edith Cowan University, Australia
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  • Author Footnotes
    3 ORCID: 0000-0002-5132-0691.
    Alecka K. Miles
    3 ORCID: 0000-0002-5132-0691.
    School of Medical and Health Sciences, Edith Cowan University, Australia
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  • Author Footnotes
    4 ORCID: 0000-0002-8640-6006.
    Erin C. Smith
    4 ORCID: 0000-0002-8640-6006.
    School of Medical and Health Sciences, Edith Cowan University, Australia
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  • Author Footnotes
    5 ORCID: 0000-0003-1741-9249.
    Eben Afrifa-Yamoah
    5 ORCID: 0000-0003-1741-9249.
    School of Science, Edith Cowan University, Australia
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  • Author Footnotes
    6 ORCID: 0000-0001-9736-1029.
    David N. Reid
    6 ORCID: 0000-0001-9736-1029.
    School of Medical and Health Sciences, Edith Cowan University, Australia
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  • Author Footnotes
    7 ORCID: 0000-0002-6869-3400.
    Shane L. Rogers
    7 ORCID: 0000-0002-6869-3400.
    School of Arts and Humanities, Edith Cowan University, Australia
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  • Author Footnotes
    8 ORCID: 0000-0001-5962-6639.
    Moira G.B. Sim
    8 ORCID: 0000-0001-5962-6639.
    School of Medical and Health Sciences, Edith Cowan University, Australia
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  • Author Footnotes
    1 ORCID: 0000-0002-7409-7007.
    2 ORCID: 0000-0002-8476-6075.
    3 ORCID: 0000-0002-5132-0691.
    4 ORCID: 0000-0002-8640-6006.
    5 ORCID: 0000-0003-1741-9249.
    6 ORCID: 0000-0001-9736-1029.
    7 ORCID: 0000-0002-6869-3400.
    8 ORCID: 0000-0001-5962-6639.



      To investigate the Australian general public’s ability to identify common medical emergencies as requiring an emergency response.


      An online survey asked participants to identify likely medical treatment pathways they would take for 17 hypothetical medical scenarios (eight emergency and nine non-emergency). The number and type of emergency scenarios participants correctly suggested warranted an emergency medical response was examined. Participants included Australian residents (aged>18 years; n = 5264) who had never worked as an Australian registered medical doctor, nurse or paramedic.


      Most emergencies were predominately correctly classified as requiring emergency responses (e.g. Severe chest pain, 95% correct). However, non-emergency medical responses were often chosen for some emergency scenarios, such as a child suffering from a scalp haematoma (67%), potential meningococcal disease (57%), a box jellyfish sting (40%), a paracetamol overdose (37%), and mild chest pain (26%). Participants identifying as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander suggested a non-emergency response to emergency scenarios 29% more often compared with non-indigenous participants.


      Educational interventions targeting specific medical symptoms may work to alleviate delayed emergency medical intervention. This research highlights a particular need for improving symptom identification and healthcare system confidence amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations.


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