With a national shortage of paramedic certified individuals impacting emergency response agencies across the country, local fire agencies banded together and formed a partnership with the Regional Emergency Medical Service Authority, REMSA, to train their existing fire personnel to the level of Paramedic. For some agencies, providing Advanced Life Support via paramedic certified firefighters has been a long-established standard of care. For others, like the Cities of Reno and Sparks, the concept is somewhat new. REMSA has been providing the bulk of advanced life support care in the Washoe County area for over 30 years. Local jurisdictions like Carson City Fire Department and East Fork Fire Protection District have been the sole source providers of advanced life support for well over 30 years in their respective jurisdictions.
Paramedic training is a full one-year commitment. The education is very intense and demanding, with classroom, clinical, and internship requirements. Past practice has been to hire individuals who already have the appropriate paramedic level certification; however, due to a shortage of certified applicants, many organizations have struggled to find the necessary numbers of paramedic personnel to fill their ranks.
REMSA’s paramedic education program is one of two paramedic education programs in the region and is acclaimed to be one of the very best programs. In an unprecedented move and recognizing the needs of the various populations served by regional fire agencies, a proposed “firecentric” based program is moving forward and at a rapid pace.
Agencies participating to date include the Carson City Fire Department, Central Lyon County Fire Protection District, East Fork Fire Protection District, Reno Fire Department, Sparks Fire Department, Storey County Fire Protection District, Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District, Tahoe Douglas Fire Protection District, and REMSA.
Under the proposed program, existing fire personnel who are accepted into the program would be able to attend on a schedule built around their existing shift work schedule. Currently, if a fire service employee wanted to attend a paramedic education program they would have to arrange for shift coverage, take annual leave, trade work days with other personnel, and make other arrangements to participate. With the new proposal schedule, it will be possible for personnel to attend on scheduled days off, thus not disrupting their schedule or the organization’s daily shift continuity or workflow.
District Fire Chief Tod Carlini of the East Fork Fire Protection District stated that this proposed approach will be beneficial to all. “We all need more paramedic certified firefighters,” Carlini said. “Being able to offer this opportunity to our current firefighters, with a desire to become paramedics, is fantastic. I am especially excited to see how fast this is coming together and to work with REMSA, as the lead in the actual instruction.”
While REMSA will take the lead with instruction and clinical education, each agency, and especially those who provide patient transport, will also bear the responsibility of providing internships or preceptorship at the end of the clinical experience.
“REMSA is thrilled to launch this new program in collaboration with our regional fire agency partners,” said Dean Dow, president and CEO, REMSA. “Regionalizing the training of our firefighter paramedic counterparts creates seamless patient care, standardizes best practices and builds familiarity and camaraderie among the region’s fire and health care professionals.”
Participating agencies, including REMSA, are in the process of signing a Memorandum of Understanding, including REMSA, to formalize the regional effort. Each participating agency has a seat at the table forming an executive committee. An internally appointed five-person oversight work group will be assigned to actually manage the operational components with REMSA. REMSA will have an ex-officio seat on the executive committee.
Sandy Wartgow, Carson City Fire Department’s new Emergency Services Manager, said, “ This new collaborative paramedic program is designed to provide our fire agencies with competent and qualified training by allowing firefighters to advance their certifications on a schedule that does not impact daily staffing needs and improves cost-effectiveness. Most importantly, this program provides the communities we serve with increased medical coverage by having more qualified and well-trained paramedics
Preparations are in the works for internal promotion and advertisement of program openings. Applicants will be selected in a competitive process regardless of agency affiliation. The program is scheduled to begin in December of this year. Classes will be hosted at East Fork Fire Station 12 in northern Douglas County, REMSA headquarters in Reno, and at the University of Nevada School of Medicine.