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Beyond Paramedic - Paramedics transitioning into long term health care
When Paramedics first entered the emergency health care scene in the late 1960s and early 1970s, many people speculated that paramedics would not be around long. At the time, the idea of a paramedic actually being involved in real health care was thought to be somewhat ridiculous, and even more so the thought of them actually contributing to any type of long term care of patients.
A paramedic was first designed to be something of a first responder to emergency calls. Something like an extension of an emergency room that could be on the scene of an emergency and perform care in the field as prescribed by an emergency room physician in real-time. The idea was to send out a paramedic to act as a sort of robot for the physician and perform tasks assigned while the patient was being transported to the E.R. it was an effort to start patient care as early as possible into the "golden hour" of the injury or illness. Since physicians have known for years that the most crucial care of a patient happens in the first hour after the event begins, the paramedic was thought to be able to play an important role in extending care to patients during this "golden hour".
The evolution of paramedics
Over the past 40 years, paramedics have made some radical changes in training and teaching. Various pro-paramedic organizations, such as NREMT and NAEMT have put up a successful fight in helping to bring paramedics to the forefront of emergency care. Because of the efforts of these groups and many others, paramedics have flourished across the nation.
Slowly, since the first introduction of paramedics, new knowledge, skills, and procedures have been taught to paramedics. Some of these procedures are CPR, Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS), advanced airway techniques, pre-hospital trauma life support, pediatric life support, and even hazardous materials. Paramedics have become such a well-rounded, and vital part of the emergency medical system, it would be difficult to imagine how patient survival statistics would fall if paramedics were no longer around.
What's next for paramedics?
Today's paramedic is a health care professional that plays a vital role in emergency care. However, due to the diligence and continued efforts of programs backing paramedics, they are now also stepping up into stronger roles in long term care of patients. These days, it is not at all uncommon to see paramedics working in emergency rooms, intensive care units, and in some cases, even nursing homes. Paramedics are starting to become known in many facets of health care, and can often be found anyplace where the need for emergency care of a patient may come to be.
Paramedics have long since faced the old stigma of only being pertinent in emergency patient care. However, today's paramedic training involves far more than just emergency medicine, and may include long term care for geriatrics and pharmaceuticals that extend far beyond the scope of emergency medicine. Also paramedics today are trained in advanced cardiac care and diagnostics, and even some surgical and orthopedic techniques. The paramedic on the street today has knowledge in virtually all areas of health care, and has the ability to apply that knowledge in almost any situation.
Paramedics have never stopped seeking education. Through the efforts of support groups and training institutions, the paramedic has been able to constantly receive training that increases their knowledge and skill. Continued education has even become part of a paramedic's requirements for maintaining certification or licensure. Every paramedic is required to attend certain amounts of classroom training each year, just to stay certified.
Proving their dedication to education and their devotion to the health care industry, paramedics are actively seeking new pathways in medicine. While some are seeking education and stepping into areas of health care such as radiology, extended care, and surgery, others are actively seeking roles in nursing, and therapeutic functions. Paramedics are found in educational venues, such as the Paramedic to RN online program and even moving on to medical schools and using their ambition and knowledge to apply themselves in medicine to become physicians.
What happens to pre-hospital care if paramedics continue to advance into long term care?
Because a paramedic, or EMT-P, is actually part of a multi-tiered program of training, consisting of EMT-Basics, EMT-Advanced, and even EMT-Intermediate, it only serves to reason that the lower levels are learning new skills and techniques as well. Already, many states across the country have recognized the EMT-I as an active and working pre-hospital care provider. Knowledge, skills, and techniques once only utilized by paramedics are now being used by these individuals in the field. Techniques typically performed by paramedics, such as advanced cardiac care, intravenous injections, and advanced airway maneuvers are being performed by EMT-Basics and EMT-Intermediates bringing some relief to the heavy burden of responsibility that has historically been placed on paramedics alone.
Institutions that teach and govern emergency medical responders have recognized the need for alternatives to paramedics in the field. With more and more paramedics leaving "the streets" in search of new fields of study and employment in medicine, other levels of EMTís are being trained to fill the roles once held by the paramedic.
The future of the paramedic
Although still somewhat unknown, one thing is for sure. Paramedics have proven themselves to be individuals that constantly strive to become better professionals in the health care scene. Their diligence has not gone unnoticed and through their continued efforts and training, they are moving into virtually all areas of health care. For more than 40 years now, paramedics have dedicated their lives to serving patients and to building upon the ideas of what a paramedic is to be. They have been extremely successful helping to create a solid emergency medical response system, and are now proving their worth in other facets of patient care. A role that was once thought to just simply be a ride to the hospital for patients is now patient care within minutes of an incident that continues into days and even years of long term care for those patients.
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