Critical Care Paramedic Program At Ridgewater Aims To Provide Advanced Training To Region’s Paramedics

You’ve heard of the “golden years”, but are you familiar with the “golden hour”?  In traumatic and medical emergencies, the “golden hour” is a window of time in which delivery of proper medical care can make a significant difference in whether a patient lives or dies. In rural areas such as central and west central Minnesota, where response and transport times in emergency situations may be longer than in heavily populated areas, well-trained emergency medical service personnel become a critical component in making the most of the “golden hour”.

Thanks to a ten thousand dollar grant from the United Way of Kandiyohi County, Ridgewater College is launching a new Critical Care Paramedic (CCP) program.  Building upon a strong history of training Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics in central Minnesota, Ridgewater’s CCP program provide access for practicing paramedics and emergency room personnel to a fully-accredited critical care paramedic training program, enabling them to achieve a nationally-recognized certification as a Critical Care Paramedic.

Paramedics and other medical personnel who choose to pursue certification as a Critical Care Paramedic will build upon their current training and skill levels.  The CCP program will emphasize an advanced and in-depth understanding of illness and injuries of the pediatric, adult, and geriatric patient.  Specifically, a CCP:

  • Will have a greater ability for more concise differential diagnosis
  • Can perform rapid sequence induction (sedate and paralyze a patient for placement of a breathing tube)
  • Can perform retrograde intubation (insert a breathing tube when the patient has had extensive facial trauma)
  • Can perform a surgical cricothyrotomy (surgical airway)
  • Will have the ability to set up operating parameters for mechanical ventilation
  • Can perform sutures
  • Can insert a central IV line in the jugular or subclavian vein for massive trauma or cardiac patient with collapsed veins
  • Can hang and start blood product for transfusion
  • Can interpret 12-lead electrocardiography (ECG) in a cardiac emergency
  • Can assess and manage implanted cardiac defibrillators, pacemakers, and intra-aortic balloon pumps

In addition, a CCP is trained to recognize and manage the special needs of pediatric and geriatric patients, including shock, pain, and breathing, which can be harder to identify and diagnose in these populations.

The United Way grant will enable the college to purchase the program curriculum from the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, which is the only nationally-recognized and certified program in the nation.  Ridgewater will provide the classroom portion of the training, and the clinical portion of the training will be delivered at Hennepin County Medical Center, expanding on the college’s current partnership with them in delivering the standard Acute Care Paramedic program. The grant will also pay for the travel expenses for CCP examiners to come from the University of Maryland to oversee the testing portion of the training.

More than a dozen current paramedics will participate in the initial cohort, including professionals from the Willmar Ambulance Service and several other local ambulance services.  In addition, Ridgewater has a core instructor that will proctor the program and two other instructors will participate to earn their CCP instructor certification.

This will be the only program in Minnesota through which paramedics can earn nationally-recognized certification as a Critical Care Paramedic. The closest program currently is in LaCrosse, Wisconsin.  By placing student resources online and incorporating use of the college’s mobile simulation training vehicle, SimLab L1, Ridgewater’s CCP program will be a viable option for paramedics employed virtually anywhere in the state and region.

Initially, the program will cost students $1,000, and is delivered through Ridgewater’s Customized Training and Continuing Education department as an hour-based program.  As the program grows and develops, the college will examine the possibility of advancing the program to a credit-based certificate program.

All emergency patients will benefit by having a greater number of CCPs in the region, but the most critically ill and injured will see the greatest benefits from this advanced training.  The most critical patients, after assessment and stabilization at the nearest hospital, are often transferred to a tertiary care facility in St. Cloud or the Twin Cities.  This is accomplished by:

  1. Flying the patient in a CCP-staffed helicopter. 
  2. Transporting the patient by local ambulanced staffed by a CCP. 

Ultimately, the CCP program will enable the already well-trained ambulance services of the region to save even more lives, while reducing the costs to the patient and insurance companies, and keeping the funds in local economies.

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