Peace of Mind for Patients & Families: The North Central EMS Paramedicine Program
After being discharged from the hospital, Virgie Connors’ battle with COVID-19 was far from over. The North Central EMS Paramedicine Program gave Virgie and her family peace of mind as she returned home.
In August of 2020, Virgie started to come down with the sniffles. Given the state of the pandemic, she called her primary care provider right away to see about getting a COVID‐19 test. That call was on a Thursday and she made a testing appointment for the following Tuesday.
While she waited for her appointment, she mostly stayed in bed to rest. Besides her sniffles, she had significant night sweats. However, she had been regularly checking her temperature and never had a fever.
“You know, they were telling everyone to look for a temperature, but I never had a fever,” Virgie said.
By the time Tuesday rolled around, she could barely walk to the car. A family member drove her to get tested and she decided to go straight to the Fisher‐Titus Emergency Room after.
“When she first started having symptoms, we didn’t want to jump the gun and tell her to go into the Emergency Room,” said Amanda Swaynigm, Virgie’s daughter and North Central EMS employee. “But then when the time came, it actually got very scary because she could barely walk going into the ER.”
“It was hurting to breathe and that’s when I said, ‘I’m going to the ER,’” Virgie said.
Given Virgie’s symptoms, it was presumed that she was positive for COVID‐19 and due to visitation precautions in place to prevent the spread of COVID‐19, her family was not able to be with her at the Emergency Room. Her diagnosis would later be confirmed by the positive COVID‐19 test from earlier that day.
“It’s scary because you’re just leaving her,” Amanda explained. “We couldn’t go in with her to make sure she was OK.”
Virgie was admitted to Fisher‐Titus and stayed for four days. She had pneumonia, AFib (irregular heartbeat), and tachycardia (heart rate over 100 beats per minute) as a result of COVID‐19.
“I did feel better when she called me and said she was being admitted,” Amanda said. “Then you know she’s in the best care.”
Virgie was able to communicate with her family the whole time she was admitted.
As a North Central EMS employee, Amanda was aware of the Paramedicine Program and asked for it for her mom after discharge.
“They told me there would be somebody coming out from North Central EMS to do an EKG and vitals a couple times a week,” Virgie said. “Thank goodness, because I was kind of scared leaving the hospital.”
Over the next few weeks after being discharged, Bryan, a medic from North Central EMS, came out around eight times to check on Virgie. First, a couple times a week and then once a week.
“Bryan was very professional,” Virgie said. “He was very informative. He explained everything even after he did the EKG. It gave me a little more peace of mind.”
During the first visit, Bryan called Virgie’s primary care provider to talk about her vitals and her EKG. After each following visit, the EKGs and vitals would be sent directly to Virgie’s entire care team including her
Virgie and her husband John have a close relationship with their family. They have two daughters: Amanda and her younger sister, Ashley Connors. They also have four grandchildren ranging in age from seven to 17.
“All the grandkids as well as my sister and I have always been very close with my parents, seeing them almost daily for family dinners,” Amanda explained. “It took a toll on all of us not being able to see them in person, but we did gain peace of mind after each visit Bryan had with her.”
Although Virgie is still feeling some of the lasting effects of COVID‐19 including lethargy and some heart‐related side effects, she says she’s feeling much better. And she and her family are grateful for the sense of security that came from having the paramedicine program to help them through that time.
“I was so happy we asked for paramedicine,” Amanda said. “Our entire family felt so much better knowing someone would be there in a couple days to re‐check her vitals. It is such a good resource and I really hope that more families and doctors can use it.”
Community Paramedicine is a new concept in rural health care. It expands the role of the paramedic from the traditional emergency setting. North Central EMS will work with Fisher-Titus to identify patients who have difficulty accessing primary care services.
Paramedics will provide scheduled, in-home care to improve long-term health outcomes of the medically underserved and improve the quality of life of patients with chronic diseases.