Delivering quality health care cannot be done without collaboration. This occurs every day in a hospital when a doctor calls a specialist to identify the proper treatment for an issue or when a social worker plans a discharge based on the recommendations from a nurse. When each profession brings its specialized knowledge to the table, innovation and progress can occur. Over the last year, the health care and educational industries have collaborated in several ways to improve health care right here in the Fox Valley.

One innovation that is being implemented nationally is the Mobile Integrated Healthcare – Community Paramedicine program. MIH-CP programs send paramedics into the homes of patients to help with chronic disease management or to follow up on post-hospital discharge in order to prevent hospital admissions or readmissions, and to improve patients’ experience of care.

As MIH-CP enters northern Illinois, the fire and medical industries are preparing to take steps to change how we deliver emergency health care. Waubonsee Community College supported these efforts through a Telligen Community Initiative grant awarded to the college in 2016 to further these discussions. Using a nationally approved curriculum, the Introduction to Community Paramedic course was developed and offered this fall. This course examines the work of community paramedics as members of a distinct community that works in collaboration with local public health agencies, hospitals and fire departments in order to serve the community. This course teaches skills that paramedics need when working in this brand-new role, and it provides an introduction to community paramedicine for firefighters, hospital administrators and other interested stakeholders.

The delivery of this course was supported by multiple levels of the health care and educational fields. Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital hosted the initial course at its campus, while the second course was offered at Waubonsee’s newly remodeled Aurora Fox Valley Campus. Colorado Mountain College is researching the effectiveness of this course in preparing students for this new role in communities, and it will be added to a national study of the curriculum. The results of this study will inform the national curriculum, which, in turn, will inform the Illinois Department of Public Health and medical institutions across the nation as to how the program should go forward in the future. Lastly, Southern Fox Valley Emergency Management System sponsored the application for continuing education for participants.

Evan Darger, a North Aurora paramedic who is an instructor in Waubonsee’s paramedic program, taught the first sessions of Introduction to Community Paramedic this fall.

“I think the impact our program has is as unique to the individual student as the experience they bring in the door,” Darger said. “For students who have been involved in health care for years, it can serve to challenge their existing paradigms of the health care system. For students just beginning their journey, it can be the first exposure to the very real problems the populations they serve are faced with. The hope is that the real impact of classes like this will be on the future of health care delivery models as it brings different backgrounds to the same table to ask how we can do a better job bringing the appropriate care to the populations that need it most.”

I know I speak for everyone at Waubonsee when I say that I feel honored and privileged to collaborate with so many valued community and national institutions to bring innovative education and programs to our community to improve health care for all.  

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