How Board Certification Elevates the Role of Community Paramedics

Mobile Integrated Health (MIH) continues to grow as a healthcare discipline, despite inconsistent funding sources. Community paramedics are a key part of MIH teams, and expanding educational opportunities for these professionals fortifies the growth of these programs. 

Community Paramedicine education requirements vary across states and even counties, but there’s a growing push for Community Paramedics to get board certified. A Certified Community Paramedic (CP-C) is a credential available to certified paramedics who want to move up the clinical ladder or become part of MIH teams. 

Candidates complete a preparatory course that covers MIH and expanded emergency medical services and then sit for an exam through the International Board of Specialty Certification (IBSC). 

Role of Certification

“The goal of community medicine, or MIH, is to keep people at home and out of more expensive healthcare settings,” says Dave Bump, Chief Strategic Officer of IBSC. The healthcare industry as a whole drives toward a goal of improved quality, better integration and lower costs. MIH teams are poised to grow and fulfill those goals.

However, as Bump says, there’s not one single funding source for this type of care. MIH needs the backing of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to establish consistent funding and compensation. 

One way to get there is through standardized education and professional credentials. Other healthcare professionals on MIH teams, including nurses, doctors, therapists and others, undergo continuing education programs and receive certifications. 

The CP-C credential provides this structure with a content outline, detailing the competencies tested and providing insight into the role community paramedics play in the healthcare ecosystem.  

What Does Certification Look Like? 

Since its release, Bump said about 600 people have taken the exam, and IBSC is seeing about 15% year-over-year growth in people sitting for the exam. 

The IBSC spent about 2 years developing the exam with input from dozens of MIH and EMS professionals across the country. The content areas covered by the exam aim to accurately represent the role of community paramedics and the services they provide to their communities. 

The CP-C content outline details topics being tested, but paramedics must prepare for the exam on their own. Some state EMS programs provide training courses, and the IBSC lists test prep resources

The exam covers six competency areas:

  • Community based needs: How the CP-C interacts with the community, addresses social determinants of health and connects patients to resources.
  • Multidisciplinary collaboration: Developing care plans, disease management and patient records. 
  • Patient/client-centric care: Specific healthcare activities and patient interviewing skills. 
  • Community paramedic wellness and safety: Clinician wellness and protection measures. 
  • Preventive care and education for patient/client & caregiver: Working with patients and their caregivers to educate them and talk through concerns.
  • Ethical and legal considerations: Privacy, patient rights, professional boundaries and best practices.

Captain Chris Hickman of Ocala Fire Rescue has been preparing for the test through the MIH Academy, which organizes these competencies into a curriculum designed to help Community Paramedics expand on their current skills and serve as leaders in the industry.  

“The students I have engaged with are seasoned professionals with a degree of experience and understanding in their backgrounds,” Hickman said. 

He has already begun to apply what he’s learned in prepping for the exam to the MIH program he works within. He expects that certification will help the program expand the services offered. 

What’s Ahead for Credentialing

Although requirements vary across states to become a Community Paramedic, more and more states do require the credential for endorsement. Also, many MIH teams looking to get accredited may require board certification as part of their clinical ladder. 

The exam has industry backing as well. NAMIHP endorses the IBSC exam, and the Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport Systems (CAMTS) encourages all Community Paramedics to get board certified as part of accredited MIH teams. 

Hickman said the education afforded through the credentialing process will help the program better manage resources and improve outcomes. The certification allows him to move from practitioner to administrator, and he sees the credential helping MIH program leaders align management with national initiatives.    

Credentialing is one more step for MIH to elevate the profession and garner support for sustained funding. 

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