If you’re considering starting a Mobile Integrated Health-Community Paramedic Program (MIH-CP), you might wonder about the difference between a community paramedic and a regular paramedic. This guide will discuss their differences and how they work within healthcare.
A community paramedic is the name given to a paramedic who works within mobile integrated healthcare. In some states, community paramedics are required to obtain extra training. In other areas, community paramedics have the same training as regular paramedics; they just work in a different role.
Let’s talk about some of the training required for paramedics and community paramedics. We’ll outline the different environments of community paramedics and discuss how their approach differs from regular paramedics.
The Main Differences Between Community Paramedics and Road Medics
Before we go too far, let’s set up a basic outline of the characteristics of these two professions. This will help you stay on track as we go further in this article. As you’ll see, there can be small, big, or no differences between these two titles.
- Must complete paramedic school
- Often works in the back of an ambulance
- Runs on 911 calls
- Transfers patients between hospitals.
- Often works for an ambulance company, government, or hospital
- Must complete paramedic school (though may be an EMT operating in a reduced capacity)
- Some areas require further education to obtain a community paramedic certification
- Often works from a small vehicle
- Visits patients at scheduled times
- Often performs in-home treatment
- May work for ambulance service, government, or local clinic
Now that we have the bones in place regarding these two types of medics let’s flesh out the details.
What is a Community Paramedic?
A community paramedic works in mobile integrated healthcare and often delivers out-of-hospital care to underserved patients. Community paramedics typically have a paramedic license; however, there are times when an EMT or a nurse might work in a similar capacity.
Community paramedics can have various levels of certification and training. As we mentioned, some areas don’t require community paramedics to undergo any extra training, while others require paramedics to achieve additional certification.
Many believe that community paramedicine education must become more standardized nationwide to bring mobile integrated health into the mainstream. This standardization can raise trust in the community and give paramedics the opportunity to make more money.
Let’s talk about where community medics work.
Where Do Community Paramedics Work?
Community paramedics typically work for a private ambulance service, a government EMS service, or a hospital or clinic-based system. Where a community paramedic works can determine the type of work they do.
For example, a community paramedic who works for a hospital might aim to reduce hospital readmissions. In this case, the community paramedic might be most concerned with treating chronic illness and helping patients maintain good health.
On the other hand, a community paramedic who works for the local county might be more concerned with treating the homeless population or helping people who struggle with substance use and abuse.
Finally, a community paramedic who works for a private ambulance company may aim to reduce repeat 911 calls from a single patient.
Of course, all community paramedics have a single goal: to improve public health. And where community paramedics work and the jobs they do can vary drastically. This section is only meant to show that different organizations may have different goals.
How Does the Community Paramedic’s Job Differ from a Regular Paramedic?
Let’s talk about some differences between a community paramedic and a paramedic.
Here’s how we’ll do this — we’ll look at a health problem and outline how the two paramedics respond.
Community paramedic: the community paramedic will meet with the patient and perform a physical assessment, check that the meds are working, and answer questions. A community paramedic might also facilitate a video call with the patient’s physician.
Paramedic: A regular paramedic will be called to the scene if the patient has chest pain or shortness of breath. They will provide emergency stabilization and transport the patient to the hospital if needed.
Community paramedic: The community paramedic will help the patient regularly check their blood glucose level and ensure they are on a good track. They will also help ensure the patient takes medications regularly, educate them on risk factors, and help them better manage their diet and symptoms.
Paramedic: Will respond to 911 calls when the patient has a diabetic emergency – either hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia. The paramedic will provide emergency medications to help stabilize the patient on the way to the ER. If a patient needs help regulating their diabetes, they may refer them to a community paramedic.
Community paramedics: They will meet with patients voluntarily, sometimes after an overdose has occurred. They will perform physical exams, answer patient questions, and ensure that the patient is stable. They may help transport the patient to a rehab facility if the patient desires.
Paramedic: Will respond to an acute overdose and will use medication such as Narcan to reverse the effects of opiates. They will often transport the patient to the emergency department and ensure that the patient is stable.
As you can see, the community paramedic acts almost as an extension of the primary care physician. On the other side, the paramedic acts as an extension of the ER doctor. There is some overlap between how they operate, but for the most part, one operates with emergencies, the other with primary care.
Where Do You Find Community Paramedics for Mobile Integrated Healthcare?
Many areas are wondering how to find and recruit community paramedics. This is a fair question, as one of the struggles when starting a community paramedic program is finding personnel with the skills and experience to handle the work.
As anyone in the field knows, paramedics have been hard to find lately. How in the world can you find community paramedics?
There are a few things you can do to recruit community paramedics:
- Look for local paramedics. Most paramedics can be trained as community paramedics after they are brought on board. Indeed, in the initial phases of these programs, on-the-job training is probably the most practical way to find paramedics.
- Look internally. There may be paramedics at your agency who would be interested in expanded roles. Many paramedics see community paramedicine as a step forward. If the program is well organized and helping people, then paramedics should be on board.
- Try to find a way to offer incentives. Some paramedics are excited to try something new, but others wonder why they should learn a new job for the same amount of money. Sometimes, it’s possible to offer community paramedics a higher wage – sometimes through a grant.
If you’re curious, you can read our guide on how to start a community paramedic program. This will give you some ideas for attracting talent and building a strong workforce.
Now, let’s answer a few questions.
Can Regular Paramedics Work as a Community Paramedic?
Yes, paramedics can perform community paramedicine in many areas without any further training. Paramedics are already trained in various assessment and treatment skills, so their initial training and road experience meshes with community-based care.
However, some areas will require further training.
Do EMTs Work in Mobile Integrated Healthcare?
Some areas are having such a hard time finding paramedics that they’re looking at EMTs and AEMTS as possible candidates for community paramedic work.
In many cases, EMTs can work in community paramedicine. They can still provide an assessment, take vitals, and facilitate video calls with a physician. The problems begin when it comes to more advanced skills and treatment. In many cases, EMTs are untrained in these skills. Also, EMTs typically have less pharmacologic understanding.
EMTs can work in community paramedicine. For some programs, they do a great job, and it works well. However, in other cases where the program would like to provide more in-home treatment, a lack of paramedic certification can be a limiting factor.
Now, let’s review our final thoughts on paramedics vs. community paramedics.
Final Thoughts on Community Paramedics vs. Paramedics
Paramedics and Community Paramedics are, in many cases, the same person. They are just working in different environments. Some areas require community paramedics to receive extra certifications.
The paramedic tends to work as an extension of the ER physician, handling emergencies, and the community paramedic works as an extension of a primary care physician, handling more chronic conditions and preventative medicine. This is a very wide brush stroke. Paramedics and community providers can do drastically different things depending on the area.
If you’re curious, see our guide to the differences between a community paramedic and a home health nurse. This guide gives even more insight into the role of community healthcare.
Contact Julota to learn how their software is helping community paramedics collaborate with providers and treat patients with greater efficiency.