To become certified by the state of Minnesota, community paramedics must have at least two years of experience as an EMT, and provide a letter of recommendation from a medical director. They must also go through more than 300 hours of training in the classroom and in clinical settings, where they learn how to assess patients in their homes and guide them to available services within the community.
The time spent in patients' homes can prove invaluable to providers because they're able to better assess the health challenges their patients confront beyond clinic walls.
"When the patient comes into the doctor's office you get a picture, but you can present anything you want in a picture," Andrews says. "When you go to the home you can't stage that. You are going to see things the way they really are. We learn a lot more about community assessment and how to hook people up with the available services in the community and turn the focus away from emergent care and toward managing long term chronic care and identifying people's needs in their homes. Even beyond their medical needs: do they need help getting their driveway shoveled? Do they need a ride to the grocery store?"
"With some patients, the doctors will send us out just to check on their living situation. There doesn't have to be a specific need. Every patient is just as different in the clinic as they are in their homes so there isn't a template to follow because everybody has different needs."