Ridgewater College, HCMC work together on paramedic program

WILLMAR -- A new paramedic program at Ridgewater College is designed to give students a taste of both rural and metropolitan emergency medical services.

WILLMAR -- A new paramedic program at Ridgewater College is designed to give students a taste of both rural and metropolitan emergency medical services.

The first program of its kind, a joint venture between Hennepin County Medical Center and Ridgewater, will begin its first year-long class on March 5.

The idea grew out of discussions with the college's physicians' advisory board, said Bev Hartzburg, emergency medical services coordinator at Ridgewater. HCMC came into the mix as the manager of the Willmar Ambulance Service.

Ridgewater already trains ambulance personnel and provides refresher training, Hartzburg said, so "we decided we wanted to do something with a paramedic class."

"No one in the state has ever done a joint venture like this before," Hartzburg said. "We're hoping we are going to be able to offer them the best of both worlds."


The hope is that the new paramedics will be able to help rural hospitals and ambulance services as well as those in the metropolitan area.

"The ambulance service here has gotten more busy and is looking for more paramedics," she said.

Smaller ambulance services now offer basic life support services with the emergency medical technicians they have on staff. With the addition of a paramedic, they will be able to offer advanced life support services in the field.

Basic life support services will often call Willmar to send a paramedic out to meet them, to raise the level of care they can provide before they get to a hospital.

However, "especially in the western part of the state, there can be a long travel time," Hartzburg said.

Paramedics "are able to bring part of the emergency room out to the patient," she said. In the case of a heart attack, for example, a paramedic can administer drugs and use more advanced defibrillation techniques than an EMT can.

Hartzburg said she's been pleased by the interest shown in the program so far. She expects a good turnout at two informational meetings Monday and Tuesday.

One will be at 6 p.m. Monday at HCMC. The other will be at 6 p.m. in Room H160 in the administration building at the Ridgewater Willmar campus.


Classes will meet Monday and Wednesday evenings and one Saturday a month for a calendar year. At the end, students must pass a national registry test and a skills test.

Classes will be held in three facilities at the same time -- in classrooms on Ridgewater's Willmar and Hutchinson campuses and at HCMC in Minneapolis. Interactive technology will be used to link the three classrooms. Lectures will originate at any of the three locations, depending on who's speaking.

Students must be certified EMTs before they start paramedic training. Skills training will take place at all three locations. In Willmar, students will be able to use the sophisticated simulation lab also used by nursing students.

Ridgewater students will spend 80 percent of their clinical and ambulance training in rural areas and 20 percent in the metropolitan area. HCMC students will do the opposite -- 80 percent metro and 20 percent rural.

""We'll be able to give our students a whole picture of what's out there," she said.

The program can accommodate a total of 54 students, 30 students between the two Ridgewater campuses and 24 at HCMC.

For information about the program, prospective students may call Hartzburg at 320-222-6063.

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