Tillamook Regional Medical Center (TRMC) is practicing the Adventist Health mission — living God’s love by inspiring health, wholeness and hope — on the north Oregon coast through the community paramedic program.
Nick Watts is a community paramedic. He works for Tillamook Ambulance service, which is owned and operated by the hospital. Nick visits patients in their homes after they’ve been discharged from the hospital. He checks on them to make sure they’re safe and have what they need to continue to recover. He checks to make sure they have the medications prescribed for them and are taking their medications as prescribed. He fills pill boxes. He does a home safety check for fall hazards and makes changes to reduce that risk. He assesses the need for durable medical equipment and makes arrangements for patients to get what they need.
He even checks for food health and safety. Is there food to eat in the house? Is the food fresh, or is it past the discard dates? Are there piles of dirty dishes? Is the garbage overflowing?
Sometimes Nick’s patients can’t keep up with cleaning and general maintenance. In that case he connects them with people and agencies that can help.
The purpose of the community paramedic program is to reduce hospital readmissions by engaging with patients in their homes and intervening before a patient gets so sick they have to return to the hospital. In the process, Nick builds relationships with patients and their families who come to trust him and look forward to his visits.
“Being a community paramedic means listening and caring,” says Nick. “A community paramedic is afforded the ability to spend time getting to know patients one on one in a personal way, to get involved in their lives and help them be engaged in their own wellness.”
Nick receives referrals from the hospital when someone has been discharged who could benefit from a home visit. He also gets referrals from care coordinators in the clinics if they have a patient they’re concerned about and from primary care providers who count on Nick’s expertise in the field.
“Recently one of the medical assistants at the clinic asked me to check on a patient who canceled her appointment with her doctor because she didn’t feel well enough to come in,” says Nick. “I went to see the patient in her home, and she described symptoms associated with a heart attack. I talked to her doctor and we got her to the hospital immediately. In fact this patient had had a heart attack at home, didn’t know it and felt too ill to go see her doctor. Because of the conscientious reporting of the medical assistant we were able to get her the medical treatment that she needed.”
Beyond reducing readmissions Tillamook Regional Medical Center is providing community paramedic services at no charge to patients as an extension of the Adventist Health mission in the community. “By providing care to patients in their homes when and where they need it,” says David Butler, TRMC president, “we are inspiring health, wholeness and hope. By sending Nick to help people as a free service to our community we are living God’s love out loud. This is why we are here, and it is what we are called to do.”