EMT students work a mock emergency and lift an injury ‘victim’ onto a gurney during class at ENMU-R, Tuesday. Mark Wilson Photo
Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell is partnering with United Healthcare to undertake a new project that will better serve the medical needs of rural parts of New Mexico.
The Community Paramedic Program was discussed at a press conference held at the campus Tuesday afternoon. The program will prepare students to respond to indentify health needs and help serve in underserved communities. Curriculum development is scheduled to begin Nov. 1, with plans of being implemented in the first class in January. Roles of the community paramedics will include health screening assessments, providing immunizations, and disease management. Participants in the program must be licensed EMT paramedics with at least five years experience.
There will be 12 students in the inaugural class and all classroom training will be offered at the campus and delivered through instructional television and live video streaming to UNM-Taos and the Eunice Fire Department. Students will complete clinical rotations in communities in Chaves, Lea and Taos counties, the areas they will be serving upon completion of the program. The program will be offered twice a year and will eventually expand to include service in other rural parts of New Mexico in the next several years.
Program director Mike Buldra said the program serves “to alleviate the stress on emergency medical services, which include the EMS, the Fire Department and the hospitals, by providing access to primary care, which is in short supply in most of New Mexico.” He added that by providing another primary care option, members of rural communities won’t have to drive out of their way to receive medical assistance after hospital hours or on weekends.
Buffie Saavedra attended the press conference and presented a check to the university for $12,000 on behalf of United Healthcare Community Plan of New Mexico. She said the company is excited to expand its presence throughout the state.
“United Healthcare actually has a presence in New Mexico for all sorts of different types of insurance,” she said. “We see this as a way to provide grassroots support in the communities that we serve. We’re real excited to help, especially to provide rural access.”
She added that she’s seen firsthand how necessary such a program is in New Mexico.
“Being a native New Mexican, I know we have problems with infrastructure, especially in rural communities; there’s a lack of access to care,” she said. “So we’re trying to find fits for different communities so we can provide better access and have providers of all different scopes of work providing services to our folks in our communities.”
For retired nurse and ENMU-R student Anita Self, the program is right up her alley.
“I had actually come to school thinking this is what I want to do,” she said. “… I plan to retire up in a little place called Weed. There’s nothing there as far as medical facilities. I was already thinking I can go up there and I can do something for people, but I really can’t the way things are now. But if I become a community paramedic, with my RN background I think I can do something for people.”