Minnesota in need of more community paramedics

Published 5:19 am Tuesday, May 21, 2019

ST. PAUL — Minnesota needs more community paramedics to assist residents leaving the hospital in managing chronic health conditions at home, according to state health officials.

The Minnesota Department of Health said there are 127 certified community paramedics, nearly half working in the Twin Cities. Paramedics need two years of experience, more than 100 classroom hours and nearly 200 hours of hands-on clinical training to get a community certification.

Shelly Brown is part of the small group of certified community paramedics in the state.

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She works with Regions Hospital in St. Paul, which has partnered with the city’s fire department and a health clinic to test a three-year community paramedic program. The project made nearly 1,000 home visits to help people manage diabetes and high blood pressure.

Nearly half of the program’s hypertension patients lowered their blood pressure to a healthy level, while almost 80% of diabetic patients reduced blood sugar levels.

Brown was also able to help Charlie Stuns, a 64-year-old who suffered a stroke in February. She would visit his home to take his vital signs and address any concerns that he and his wife, Diane, had.

“I don’t know what we’d have done without Shelly,” Diane Stuns said. “We’ve come to think of her as the calm in the middle of the storm.”

Brown said home visits offers a look inside patients’ lives, including their eating and sleeping habits. She was able to help a woman with diabetes after finding out she drank too much Mountain Dew and wasn’t taking her insulin properly.

Dr. Aaron Burnett, who oversees the Regions Hospital program, said patients are coming back to the hospital less and are more satisfied with their care.

“They’re taking their medication closer to as it’s intended to be taken, so we’re seeing the benefit from the numbers perspective, but we’re seeing it from the patient side, too,” Burnett said.