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First U.S. Community Paramedic Course Underway

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Ten paramedics in Minnesota will become the first U.S. "Community Paramedics" this spring when they complete a course that prepares them to provide expanded health services in areas short on other health-care practitioners.„

The course is based on a new CP curriculum developed by the Community Healthcare and Emergency Cooperative, a consortium founded in July 2007 to develop a new community health provider model to address critical health„care shortages in rural and remote areas. CHEC includes EMS and rural health leaders from Minnesota, Nebraska, Australia and Canada, and the CP Program is similar to those serving parts of Nova Scotia. (See "Nova Scotia Expands Paramedic Use," July 2007„EMS Insider.)

The pilot course began in January at a fire station on the Mdewakanton Sioux Reservation near Minneapolis under the auspices of Hennepin Technical College. The first class includes three paramedics from Mdewakanton Emergency Services (who will use their new skills on the MES 18-wheel mobile medical clinic), three from the Mayo Clinic's Gold Cross Ambulance Service, three from North Memorial Medical Center and one paramedic educator who's taking the course "to see if she'd want to put this into her program," said Mike Wilcox, MD, Mdewakanton's EMS medical director.„

The course includes 150Ï200 hours of„classes plus 28 hours working one-on-one with Wilcox or another mentor.„

"I see most of them functioning in a„public-health setting, doing some history-taking relative to chronic conditions and some preventive measures," Wilcox said. "They might do vaccinations, blood draws and blood testing, suturing, immobilizing extremities via fiberglass splints or go into homes to see if something should be changed."

Bob McCarthy, BS, EMT, Hennepin Technical College's EMS education director, said, "The first class will get a certificate from the school. We expect this will turn into an advanced occupational certificate program and it could go into a two- or four-year degree program."„

Anne Willaert, MS, director of project design and development, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities' Healthcare Education-Industry Partnership, who helped develop the CP curriculum, said, "We interviewed EMTs and paramedics from rural communities and asked if they'd be interested in pursuing more than EMS. Many said they were the 'go-to' person in the community -- for example, if someone has a seizure, they get called, not the clinic -- and want to do more than quick emergency treatment. We dreamed up how to teach a paramedic how to be an advocate, a liaison, a connector to services."

The CP curriculum is built in modules so it can be used to teach paramedics, EMTs and community health workers, by building on what they already know. "Because it's in modules, it will be highly flexible," said Gary Wingrove, director of government relations and strategic planning for Gold Cross Ambulance, who has been the sparkplug for developing the curriculum and the pilot course. He said many colleges and universities have already received permission to download and use the CP curriculum.

"This is a new and exciting option for paramedics," McCarthy said. "There's such a great need for this in rural and frontier areas Ú where paramedics are often the only providers available." He stressed that the curriculum is designed to allow local areas to determine how CPs can best fit local needs.„

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