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Skip the ambulance: Mount Royal program trains paramedics to help on site

These aren’t your typical Alberta paramedics.

These ones are preventing trips to the emergency room – and now they’ve got their own training program after a partnership was struck between Alberta Health Services and Calgary’s Mount Royal University for its Community Paramedicine Extension Certificate.

Community paramedics have been in Alberta since the first teams were launched in Calgary in 2013. The program expanded to Edmonton in 2014 and based on the unit’s success, the province announced further funding to expand into Peace River, Grande Prairie, Camrose, Red Deer, Lethbridge and Medicine Hat.

These medical personnel are dispatched to urgent care calls in homes or long-term care centres rather than to emergency situations and typically they prevent a trip to the emergency room.

“They use skills that are in the paramedic scope of practice that aren’t used very often,” said Ryan Kozicky, director of AHS EMS Mobile Integrated Healthcare.

“It’s a shift in (paramedics) scope of practice: Traditional training is for emergency life support. This training is for primary urgent care. It expands their perspective of what needs to be done in the community.”

This MRU program, which is the first of its kind in Alberta, consists of seven online courses and three practicum components.

Kozicky said the modules focus on social health, mental health and addictions, community pharmacology, geriatrics and provide care such as intravenous medication, sutures, electrocardiograms and other acute care tasks.

Typically, this kind of training has been done on the job when a new recruit is hired, Kozicky said, and it’s done quite quickly while the rest is left for on-the-job training. This new course provides much better training and transition into the new role.

“Mount Royal is thrilled to be able to provide this training for paramedics – one that in consultation with physicians and families reinforces the continuum of care,” said Brad Mahon, PhD and Interim Dean, Faculty of Continuing Education and Extension at MRU.

“Vulnerable populations, such as the chronically ill or those recently released from hospital will be able to have care come to them.”

The goal of the community paramedic program is to provide the urgent care to places like long term care centres so emergency room beds are freed up in Alberta hospital. Kozicky said it’s making a difference.

“It definitely does. It’s bridging medical treatment into the community including long term care for things that people traditionally could have gone to the emergency department for,” he said.

“But now we’re able to safely do that in the long term care setting based on the new Community paramedic role and scope of practice.”