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Published on July 04, 2021

Paramedics make great addition to UNC Rockingham's ED

by Myla Barnhardt

EDEN — Since coming to UNC Rockingham Health Care in January as the director of emergency services, nurse Jon McMurphy has looked for ways to make the emergency department run more efficiently.

Paramedic Shawn Farmer

Paramedic Shawn Farmer of Eden is a works in the emergency department at UNC Rockingham Health Care where paramedics are being hired for their valuable experience.

In June, he launched a strategy that is doing just that. McMurphy put paramedics to work in UNC Rockingham’s emergency department, where they serve as liaisons between nurses and ED techs.

Three paramedics started in June: Holden Flynn, Shawn Farmer and Misty Toler. A fourth, Karlissa Warner, will start in late July, and McMurphy hopes to hire three more.

“It’s a great plan,” said emergency physician Joseph Dell’aria, who is impressed with the paramedics’ level of skills.

That’s due in part to McMurphy’s hiring strategy. As a veteran of emergency medicine, he values the work paramedics do in the field, but he knows that for some, it only whets their appetite to become more entrenched in a healthcare setting.

He looks for those paramedics who are motivated to continue their education. Three of his new hires are either enrolled in nursing school or are in the process of enrolling. Another has applied to a physician assistant program.

It’s been a good move for paramedic Shawn Farmer, who wants to be a nurse. Both the Emergency Medical Service (EMS) truck and the emergency department can be fast-paced, and that suits him.

But, instead of working alongside one person in the truck, he now enjoys the team experience of the hospital setting.

Farmer also appreciates being able to follow patients through their continuum of care, which typically ends in discharge or hospital admission. The emergency department setting also offers him greater engagement with patients than he got on an EMS run.

It’s a win-win for UNC Rockingham staff, too, they said.

Nurses juggle many priorities in the emergency department, says McMurphy. Paramedics give them an extra set of capable hands to do procedural aspects of care, such as starting IVs, giving medications, drawing blood and conducting follow-up assessments.

Nurses, in turn, can focus on logistical aspects of care including triage, care planning, patient education and discharge.

Dell’aria says the paramedics are often in the room with him as he examines patients, something he finds beneficial.

“My underlying goal is to provide quality, efficient care to our patients,” said McMurphy, but there are other positive takeaways.

Since it seems the paramedics most interested in the emergency department posts are pursuing nursing careers, the ED may ultimately be a pipeline to fill nursing positions with graduates who already have valuable emergency department experience.

Knowing that his paramedics want to become nurses, McMurphy is already thinking about their replacements. He has a strategy for that, too.

The emergency department is partnering with Rockingham Community College to bring paramedic students into the ED to fulfill their required clinical hours. The hope is that students who develop a desire for the hospital setting, will be future candidates for the paramedic role in the ED.

Myla Barnhardt i ins Marketing/Public Relations Manager for UNC Rockingham Health Care in Eden.

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