The Community Paramedic vs. Home Health Nurse: Differences and Similarities

Why do we need the community paramedic? Don’t we already have home health nurses? The answer is a resounding yes, we do need community paramedics! As community health paramedics play a vital role in our community and healthcare in general. This article investigates the difference between community paramedics and home health nurses. 

Perhaps you know, but there’s been some confusion (and even some tension, at times) about the roles of community paramedics and home health care nurses. 

This article will highlight the goals of community paramedics and home health nurses, why they are both important, and how both professions can move forward together. 

Note: the term nurse represents registered nurses (RN). This article is not comparing community paramedics to in-home aides or nurse’s assistants. 

What are the Main Differences Between Community Paramedics and Home Health Nurse?

Let’s take a moment to map things out. This section will give you a rapid-fire list of differences between community paramedics and home health nurses. 

Here are the main differences between the home nurse and community paramedic: 

  • Home nurses are trained RNs, with a primary focus on holistic, long-term care. 
  • NREMT-Certified Paramedics are initially trained in emergency care, and Community Paramedics pass the IBSC exam after a community paramedic course. For instance, in Colorado, after these steps are done, you are certified as a Community Paramedic. Please note this can vary by state.  
  • Home health nurses often work solo, from a car or sedan.
  • Community paramedics are more likely to use an ambulance or a dedicated vehicle for the community paramedicine program and their house calls.
  • Community paramedics have the ability to transport patients to alternative destinations if home treatment isn’t sufficient.
  • Home Health Nurses may work in the same clinic or hospital as a physician.

Know this: Both home health nurses and community paramedics operate in various capacities worldwide. Some areas tend to be more aggressive in using in-home care, while others don’t have an enormous scope of practice for the in-home provider. 

Does Community Paramedicine Compete with Home Health Nursing? 

Competition between community paramedics and home health nurses is usually a communication crisis, not an object of reality. 

There is often lighthearted rivalry between nurses and paramedics in the healthcare world. However, this should not be mistaken for actual competition at a professional level. While some roles overlap, there is no reason one group would reduce the quality of the other. 

On the contrary, community paramedics and home health nurses can sharpen each other, leading to a net positive for both groups. Moreover, most notably, the patient.

The goal of this article is not to highlight the pros and cons of paramedics and nurses. On the contrary, both these professionals are vital to every community. Instead, the goal is to iron out any confusion about the roles of home health nurses and community paramedics. 

In an article titled, a Nurse’s View of Community Paramedicine (published by EMS world), the nurse described the misunderstood animosity between nurses and community paramedics. 

Here are several points made: 

  • Teamwork. Paramedics and nurses are fighting the same battle. Both sides have something to teach the other. 
  • Education. Community paramedics and EMS organizations should unify their profession and education requirements. Aligning professions will create less confusion among nurses and patients. 
  • Involve local nurses. Instead of plowing forward, EMS agencies should reach out to local home health nurses, determining where help is needed most. Outreach like this should be done before initiating a community paramedic program.

However, there’s nothing wrong with hearing legitimate questions from the other side. For example, home health nurses have raised good questions about the role of community paramedics and their training. 

Home Health Nurse’s Questions about Community Paramedicine

The home health nurse has served the population for over one hundred years. On the other hand, community paramedics are relative newcomers, beginning home care within the last 20 years, with the term first appearing in 2001.

Here are some common questions: 

  • Are community paramedics trained to perform this job? 
  • Is a community paramedic program needed if an area already has home health nurses? 
  • How can community paramedics and nurses work together? 

Below, we unpack each of these questions. 


Are Community Paramedics Trained to Perform In-Home Healthcare? 

Community paramedics cannot operate outside their training and protocols as specified by their medical control. 

Community paramedic education: 

  • Baseline requirements. Paramedics must pass their national registry examination; this typically requires two years of study. 
  • Community paramedicine certification. The same certifying body that provides critical care certification also provides community paramedicine certification or CP-C. Achieving CP-C status typically takes several more months, depending on the programs. 
  • Not all states require certification. Not all states require community paramedics to receive community paramedic certification. Instead, they allow the paramedics to operate only under their current certification. 
  • EMS agencies should push for unified training. Paramedics are well trained in their current capacity. However, paramedic training is often underrepresented at colleges and universities. EMS must have a grassroots push for better representation and educational format to push community paramedics forward. Some states now require paramedics to receive an associate’s degree or have equivalent years of experience. 
  • Uniform education raises trust. As community paramedics grow, their education will become more unified. Like any product, the more streamlined, the more people can trust it. Also, in the fight to recruit paramedics, cooperative education provides a clear career path for young adults searching for a fulfilling job. 

As community paramedicine grows, home health nurses will have renewed trust and respect for the profession. 

Furthermore, pushing more unified training can only create a better path for community paramedicine reimbursement in general. Suitable training is crucial in obtaining good funding for a mobile integrated health program. 

Is a Community Paramedic Program Necessary if Your Area has a Home Health Nurse Program? 

If your area already has a home health care program, there is still plenty of opportunity for a community paramedic program. 

Here are several reasons why: 

  1. Transportation triage. If you are looking to set up an alternative destination program, your services are much different from a home health nurse. For example, home health nurses do not often transport patients. Usually, if a patient needs transport, the home health professional will call an ambulance. 
  2. Common EMS patients. Often, home health nurses work with patients who see an associated physician. In these cases, the nurses might be completely unaware of the patients who use the EMS system frequently. Therefore, EMS has a huge opportunity to deploy community paramedics to these patients.
  3. Strength in numbers. Even if your area does have an extensive home health program, there’s no reason the program couldn’t benefit from community paramedicine as a partnership. Synergy, two forces becoming stronger through alliance, can be achieved when community paramedics and home health nurses work together. 
  4. Partner with drug rehab and mental health. Community paramedicine is not always about primary care. Nurses often have strong connections with doctor’s offices and hospitals, but paramedics often have relationships with rehab centers and community mental health. If home health nurses handle primary care, perhaps paramedics are often needed in other areas. 

As you can see, there are many reasons an established home health program shouldn’t deter you from initiating a community paramedic program. However, performing a needs assessment is a crucial part of starting a community paramedic program. 

Now, let’s discuss several steps for helping community paramedics and home health care nurses work together.  

Four Ways Community Paramedics and Home Health Nurse Can Effectively Work Together

For home health nurses and community paramedics to prosper, they must build mutual respect. This section will talk about how community paramedics and home health nurses work together. 

Steps to working with community paramedics and home health nurses: 

  • Reach out. Just reaching out to the other helps improve community relations. You can swap ideas with established programs and discuss practical approaches to in-home care.
  • Cross Training. Fostering a relationship with home health nurses also opens the door for training. Some paramedics may need to learn specific skills related to home health. Establishing a partnership can lead to an increased understanding. 
  • Establish clear documentation. Keeping tight and continuous communication is essential. With a documentation service like Julota, you can quickly and safely pass important health data between professionals – regardless of an organization’s current documentation system.
  • Meetings. Meetings between home health nurses and community paramedics will emphasize the importance of in-home care. The goal is to establish an initiative that brings community paramedicine into the forefront of healthcare. The growth of in-home care can only benefit patients. 

Home health nurses and community paramedics need not be at odds. Through active communication, nurses and paramedics can come together to provide exceptional care. 

Final Takeaway on Community Paramedics and In-Home Nurses 

There is no reason an established home health nurse program should discourage community paramedics from initiating a community paramedic program. Community paramedics offer unique services, including transport to alternative destinations. 

EMS agencies should reach out to home health nurses in the area. Partnerships can lead to growth in patient care, sharpened skills, and a catalyst for positive change. 

To bring everyone together, organizations must establish a network for communication. Julota offers cutting-edge software that operates across platforms. In addition, Julota will synthesize your data, giving you the information you need for better operations and increased funding. 

If you’re curious about establishing better relationships in your community, talk to Julota today and set up a hassle-free demonstration.