Health Workforce Innovations in Response to the COVID Pandemic
Expanded scope of practice for paramedics
Across rural America, existing limited resources are challenged for the coming months during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Paramedics in the United States work within a National Scope of Practice Model that ensures patient safety and influences educational standards and paramedic roles. In common with other health disciplines, safety concerns related to paramedic care are managed through regulation, education, and quality improvement. One unintended consequence of the National Scope of Practice is that it can stifle innovation and flexibility during times of crisis. The COVID-19 crisis is a prime example of this, where paramedics are unable to fully engage in the health care system at a time when their skills and experience are most needed. While the utility of paramedics to aid in managing patients at home is being increasingly realized with the implementation of community paramedic programs, the health care system and the nation are missing the opportunity to leverage the skills and knowledge of nationally registered paramedics to carry out more advanced skills related to airway and ventilation management as members of interdisciplinary teams during the current pandemic. With a robust training and quality assurance program, non-critical-care paramedics could be trained to safely initiate and manage ventilators in the transport and non-transport settings. As such, paramedics would become valuable team members and experienced resources within hospitals during times of extreme need, such as the current global pandemic.