At-home paramedic program brings healthcare to patients’ door

Published: Jul. 25, 2023 at 5:29 PM CDT
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CLOQUET, MN. (Northern News Now) - Getting access to healthcare can be difficult for some, especially for patients who can’t leave their homes, and an at-home paramedic program is hoping to remove that hurdle.

Kristen Johnson of Cloquet has congestive heart failure, and she was in the hospital three times in May.

“I’ve had so many doctor’s appointments since returning from being in the hospital, hospital follow-ups with all the specialists,” Johnson said. “It was overwhelming.”

While others can drive to those appointments, Johnson cannot. She has family who have offered to help but knows the burden that places on them.

“My daughters live close by, but they are so busy with their lives and their children,” Johnson said.

Crystal Nykiel is part of the Community Paramedics Program. She has been providing healthcare at Johnson’s home for six weeks.

“I really enjoy her,” Johnson said. “The first time I met her, I remember, we just clicked.”

The paramedics, trained by Essentia Health, visit patients’ homes once a week.

“We teach our patients how to live their daily lives and still be comfortable at home with finding things and making it easier for them,” Nykiel said.

The Minnesota Department of Health reports nearly one-third of rural Minnesota will be 65 years of age or older in a decade, and Nykiel said the program is crucial for many people in that population.

“We want them to be as happy and as healthy at home as they can be at this point in their lives,” Nykiel said. “That’s one major goal of this.”

The Community Paramedics Program started in Fargo in 2014, and it started in the Duluth area in November.

According to Essentia Health, the paramedics are experienced emergency medical technicians with additional, specialized training in primary and preventive care.

“I think it helps them stay more compliant with what they need to do because the access is easier for them at that point,” Nykiel said.

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