EMS Providers Become Health Navigators, Not Just Technicians


News from North Carolina EMS

CarolinaFireJournal - Dr. Darrell Nelson and Dr. James Winslow
Dr. Darrell Nelson and Dr. James Winslow
07/16/2019 -

EMS providers are the new leaders in healthcare. Today many hospitals, and physician groups, are no longer local and are owned by large groups often based in other states. Even worse, more and more communities have lost their local hospitals. Gone are the days when most physicians live in the community where they practice or were employed by locally-based organizations. EMS agencies are some of the last healthcare organizations which are based locally and where the providers live in their communities. This grassroots connection to the community in which they serve makes these agencies more in tune and more responsive to their communities’ needs. In order to fulfill this new leadership role in their communities, EMS providers will need the ability to function as more of a health navigator, and not just a technician. EMS providers are rapidly entering a world where even higher standards of professionalism and education will be required for them to meet their full potential.

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There are several things that must be in place for EMS providers to realize the full potential of what they can provide for their communities.

  • EMS providers must hold their peers to a certain level of professionalism. This should involve licensure of EMS providers. The implementation of a licensure board is required with the ability to monitor the clinical care provided by individual providers.
  • EMS providers must be professionals who are held to high educational standards as well as high standards of care. A licensure board is also required to monitor educational outcomes of every EMS Educational program.
  • EMS providers must have a more flexible scope of practice that can more quickly adapt to the changing healthcare environment. At this time the process for expanding scope of practice can be somewhat slow. A licensure board made up of EMS physicians, prehospital providers and other experts could make this process more efficient.
  • More stringent educational requirements are needed so that EMS providers can more efficiently navigate the increasingly complicated healthcare environment. In many communities there are no hospitals. In other communities providers might be called upon to help decide on alternative destinations or utilize telehealth.  

The role of EMS providers is continually transforming. To keep pace with this transformation and to lead this transformation, EMS providers require licensure with their own licensing board. This will ensure that educational and care outcomes are met by institutions and providers. The scope of practice should also be determined by that same licensure board. For this to happen, EMS providers must show they are willing to commit themselves to developing EMS as a profession. A professional becomes competent in their field through training and high levels of education, they maintain their skills through continuing professional development, they commit to high ethical standards, they assume great responsibility and accountability, and they start with an institutional preparation. This journey begins with institutional preparation. Going forward an Associate’s Degree is important for future paramedics to realize their true potential as health care leaders in their communities.

Dr. Winslow graduated from Emergency Medicine residency from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2002 and completed his EMS Fellowship in 2003. He has worked at Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem for the past 11 years. He was appointed as the Medical Director of the NC Office of EMS in 2011. This document contains all protocol, procedures, and policies for all EMS agencies in North Carolina. Darrell Nelson, MD, FACEP, FAEMS is Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine at Wake Forest University Health Sciences, Program Director EMS and Disaster Fellowship, Medical Director Davie, Forsyth and Stokes County EMS.
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