The emergency department at the Humboldt District Hospital is getting a little help from their friends.
As part of their Community Paramedicine program, paramedics with Humboldt EMS have been working alongside emergency department staff when they are not out on calls or busy with their own work. During the hours of 6:45 p.m. to 8:45 p.m., one of their ambulances on duty, equipped with two paramedics and sometimes a student, has committed to attend the emergency department nightly to help out if they aren't busy.
Humboldt paramedics take a moment to for a photo with Humboldt District Hospital emergency department staff
"It's a peak time in terms of patients coming into the emergency department and it tends to be a lower call volume time for ourselves," said Derek Dagenais, Advanced Care Paramedic Supervisor with Humboldt EMS.
Paramedics will work to their full scope of practice, which means some of the tasks they handle include doing assessments on patients and any of the paperwork involved, as well as checking vital signs, ECG, starting IVs, providing patients with necessary medications, or even giving antibiotic treatments.
"We ensured our paramedics wouldn't get caught up on tasks that would affect our call response," said Dagenais, adding that a lot of thought and discussion went into the planning and development of this endeavor.
Communication is also crucial to this program, and Dagenais says that's why emergency staff will always be informed on what their paramedics are doing at all times - just in case they need to leave in a hurry on a call.
"It really has to be a quick change-over," Dagenais said.
Yvonne Berscheid is the site leader for the Humboldt District Hospital. She says that orientation and education ahead of time was one of the big keys to making sure this was a success.
"We provided orientation to the unit, did some work to clarify roles, provided education on the equipment as well as the documentation we use in the emergency department," she said. "It was very different than what EMS was used to."
Once all the orientation was completed and the new program began in January, almost immediately the benefits were being seen. For paramedics, they were getting more experience in situations they don't always get through 911 calls or inter-facility transfers.
"Even things like more exposure to pediatric patients is higher in the emergency department versus what we do day-to-day," said Dagenais. "Our paramedics are loving it."
Berscheid said for Humboldt District Hospital, the positives of the program are far-reaching, and last longer than the two hours paramedics are working in their emergency department. She says now that paramedics have the back-end knowledge of how their emergency department works; they are more comfortable in their surroundings and familiar with the processes.
"It's really been a benefit each time they are here. Whether they are bringing a patient in for treatment or we're preparing a patient for transfer into the city; they are more able to assist in terms of helping to provide the care that's needed," she said.
Berscheid added that she has had very positive feedback from the nurses and physicians; not to mention the benefit to patients. It goes without saying that having additional, capable healthcare providers on hand during peak hours means that patients can be seen sooner, which takes some of the pressure off staff in the emergency department.
"There's always been a strong relationship between EMS and the emergency department but what this did is just formalize that relationship," she said. "It's been so great. We are able to build an even stronger team."