PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — When a person is severely injured, every second counts.
Northern Maine Community College is making sure that nursing and emergency medical services professionals from around the country have the specialized training they need to care for such patients.
Twenty students from throughout the state and nation are in the process of completing advanced training in critical care transport at NMCC. The Critical Care Emergency Medical Transport Program is an 88-hour program being offered over the course of 12 days between Jan. 17 and Feb. 1 to help medical professionals understand and meet the special needs of critical care patients during transport.
“This is Day 8 of the training, and it is really going great,” Daryl Boucher, NMCC nursing instructor and coordinator of the college’s EMS program, said Wednesday evening. “We have 20 people taking the full program, and we also are allowing those already certified and who need continuing education credits to take it, so on any given day we can have up to 30 people in there.”
The CCEMTP training was developed by the University of Maryland-Baltimore County. NMCC has a site license to offer the training in northern Maine. The college offered the training in Aroostook County for the first time in 2003, when there were only two CCEMTP-certified individuals in the region.
According to the university’s Web site, the program is designed to prepare paramedics and nurses to function as members of a critical care transport team. Those who take the course gain an understanding of the special needs of critical patients during transport, become familiar with the purpose and mechanisms of hospital procedures and equipment, and develop the skills to maintain the stability of hospital equipment and procedures during transport.
College officials said that while traditional paramedic training programs such as NMCC’s associate degree program teach essential skills and provide a knowledge base for the management of patients in the pre-hospital setting, these programs do not typically teach the skills and knowledge necessary to manage critical care patients between hospitals, specialty referral centers and extended care facilities. Nurses who manage critical care patients in the hospital may have insufficient experience or confidence needed to function outside the hospital environment. The CCEMTP program provides the advanced training these professionals need.
“This is a very elite training, above and beyond what a student in the health care arena usually sees,” Boucher said. “It is usually taken by emergency room and critical care nurses, as well as paramedics. The test is very difficult.”
Boucher himself has been CCEMTP-certified since 2001.
Leah Buck, assistant dean of continuing education at the college, said those taking part in the program “represent a great mix of medical professionals who are involved daily in the care of critical patients.”
Together with emergency department nurses and paramedics, Buck said, those involved in the training include flight nurses, critical care nurses and military personnel.
“Geographically, we have local providers alongside professionals from central and southern Maine, Texas, Montana, Michigan, Connecticut and Maryland,” she said.
When patients are critically injured or ill in Aroostook County, it is common for them to be taken to larger hospitals, such as Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, to receive more advanced care.
Dr. Peter Goth, an emergency room physician at The Aroostook Medical Center and medical director for the NMCC program, said that even when a patient is stable, those transporting a critically ill or injured patient still need a higher level of training to make the trip safely.
“The EMS services in Aroostook County are great, but there is a need to have additional training for critical care transport,” he said. “The care and equipment that is provided during the transfer between hospitals should match what is available in the hospital.”
In addition to overseeing the medical direction of the CCEMTP program at NMCC, Goth taught the session of the program covering advanced airway training, with topics such as retrograde intubation, paralytics, advanced airway procedures, pleural decompression and chest tube care.
He is joined by a team of expert instructors with a broad range of clinical expertise in caring for critically ill patients, including representatives from LifeFlight of Maine.
The students are focusing mainly on critical care transportation for adults. While there is some information scattered through the program regarding critical care transport for children, professionals must take a different course in order to be certified on how to deal with pediatric and neonatal patients.
Boucher said the course has attracted many emergency personnel from Aroostook County over the years. Most have stayed to work in The County, he added.
“A lot of our local hospitals hire NMCC graduates,” he said. “Those who pass this program are staying around here to use their skills.”
He added that a total of 36 medical professionals have obtained their certification after completing the CCEMTP program at NMCC. Most of those students came from the local region, according to NMCC officials.