Community Paramedic Program Takes Healthcare Beyond the Hospital's Walls
For Miriam Richardson, visits to the Nash UNC Health Care emergency department were becoming a regular experience. Her unchecked diabetes was causing issues that she was unable to manage at home. In response to Richardson’s experience, and others like it, Nash UNC Health Care launched the Community Paramedic Program. The program supports patients once they leave the hospital by providing education and resources that empower patients to take their health into their own hands.
“We often find that patients aren’t sure how to take care of their specific disease process and don’t have the resources to keep up with their health,” said Teal Jacobs, Community Paramedic at Nash UNC Health Care. “This program allows us to sit in their home with them, take the time to answer questions they may have and help them find the resources they need to stay on top of their health.”
Community paramedics like Jacobs visit a patient’s home up to four times following their discharge from the hospital. During a typical visit, the paramedic will monitor the patient’s vital signs, explain medications, communicate with the patient’s doctor, schedule follow-up appointments, or administer vaccines.
“I’m so lucky to have Teal in my life,” said Richardson. If it wasn’t for him coming back to check on me and making sure that I’m stable, I wouldn’t have anything.”
In addition to weekly check-ups, Nash UNC Health Care, with the support of the Nash UNC Health Care Foundation, was able to provide Richardson with a glucometer that allows her to keep track of her blood sugar levels.
“The glucometer has helped me stay on top of my blood sugar levels,” explained Richardson. “Thanks to that and Teal’s help, I haven’t had to go back to the emergency room.”
Sandy DeWolfe, another of Jacob’s patients, said that the most valuable service Jacobs provided was taking the time to answer her questions. “He answers all my questions. He takes the time. When you’re in the hospital, the doctors and their team are so busy, they don’t have time to go through everything in detail,” she explained. “Teal can answer my questions about my medication and explain exactly what I need to be doing to stay healthy.”
While the primary goal of the Community Paramedic Program is to empower patients to manage their health and reduce readmissions, it also helps reduce emergency room volumes.
“Repeatedly caring for chronic patients takes a toll on all the providers, from the ED, to nursing, to the dispatch call takers,” said Jacobs. “Seeing these patients at home reduces the burden on the healthcare system.”
There are currently two community paramedics at Nash UNC. Together, they serve a three-county area.
“Each community paramedic is able to conduct 25 visits a week,” explained Dr. Viola Pierce, Readmissions Manager at Nash UNC Health Care. “Unfortunately, the need is much higher in our community. Ideally, we would like to reach 150 visits a week.”
The Nash UNC Health Care Foundation has prioritized raising funds to add more community paramedics and purchase a new vehicle for the program. The recent Blue Jeans & BBQ event at Rocky Mount Mills raised funds in support of the program. The Foundation will continue to prioritize the program in the coming year.
Richardson summarizes the importance of the program perfectly. “The more cars you can have, the more people you can help, the more lives you can save,” she said.
If you would like to support the Community Paramedic Program, visit www.NashUNCFoundation. org or call (252) 962-8583.