Why everyone loses when EMS and nurses clash

Nursing organizations have been battling paramedics for decades, but the turf wars only trivialize shared healthcare goals

Turf wars: They tend to break out when one side feels threatened by the other. In California, nursing advocacy organizations have been battling the role that paramedics play in the health care system for decades. The union’s objection to fire departments wanting to start a community paramedicine programs is no exception. Where the fear comes from, I’m unclear about. The lack of training that is cited in the article is  a distraction from the real issue facing health care — shrinking dollars and the demand for better quality at a lower cost. 

The reality is quite simple. In some ways,  evolution is underway and everyone is going to give up something in order to get something. One major roadblock is the  mentality that plagues the provision of health care; the idea that nurses can only do nursing is frankly absurd.

A nurse-medic will tell you how much overlap exists between the two professions in terms of training and capability. One is no better than the other; each is designed to operate in specific environments. This concept is validated by the fact that neither of the  community paramedicine pilot programs requires a change in scope of practice for the medics. It’s an evolving role that is responding to the changing healthcare landscape.

Sadly, comments made by these advocacy organizations do nothing but reinforce the distrust between the two professions. Fortunately, many nurses I know dismiss these comments as rhetoric; they recognize the role EMS plays within the system.

Hopefully these projects will demonstrate their efficacy, as they have in many other states, and help to achieve what we all want anyway: a more effective system that improves the overall health of our communities.

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