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Release Date: 8/22/2012

Innovative paramedic to R.N. bridge program enables paramedics to work while furthering careers

Paramedic to R.N. Bridge Program participants.

Paramedic to R.N. Bridge Program participants.

St. Anthony’s Medical Center figures prominently in an innovative program – one of only a few in Missouri – that allows experienced paramedics to further their careers through training as registered nurses.

Offered by Mineral Area College and developed through a $380,000 grant through the office of Gov. Jay Nixon, the Paramedic to R.N. Bridge pilot program began with 14 students in spring 2011. It’s taught by program coordinator Stacia Smith, R.N., B.S.N., CEN, CCRN, EMT-P, an R.N. educator at St. Anthony’s; and Dean Meenach, R.N., B.S.N., CEN, CCRN, CPEN, EMT-P, a nurse in St. Anthony’s Cardinal Glennon Pediatric Emergency Department and a member of St. Anthony’s Stroke Team. Both Smith and Meenach also are employed by Mineral Area College.

Meenach envisioned the program a decade ago as an option for licensed paramedics to advance their careers while holding their jobs in this lean economy. Meenach himself has transitioned from a paramedic to a nurse in his career.

“The program allows experienced paramedics to use their clinical and critical thinking skills in a different scope of practice and to fill a critical need in our region,” Meenach said. “We have officially recognized their training and education and experience, and have articulated (granted) 29 hours of college credit for their previous experience and education. We’re providing a learning format that’s hybrid in nature, where they have minimal commuter time, limited classroom time, a high degree of online involvement and at very low cost.

“We’re developing the program to serve students regionally, in Illinois and other surrounding states,” added Meenach, a 17-year veteran educator.

To qualify for the program, paramedics must have two years’ experience in their jobs and fulfill general educational requirements. In addition to coursework, students complete more than 120 hours of clinical training in mental health, OB-GYN, medical/surgical, pediatrics and more. By the time they graduate, they will have spent many hours at St. Anthony’s, working with R.N.s in the Nursery, Acute Rehab, Orthopedics, pediatric and adult Emergency Department, intensive care units, Interventional Radiology, Cardiac Cath Lab, Stroke Team and with special interventions (such as porta-caths and internal defibrillators).

Three current St. Anthony’s paramedics, Elise Staudinger, Nick Shanders and Mike Douglas, are students in the pilot class, which is scheduled for graduation this winter. The first full class of 20 to 22 students is scheduled to begin in fall 2013.

“Dean and Stacia have both worked in EMS and now nursing, so they have real-life experience that allows them to understand our educational needs,” said Staudinger, who has worked in the Emergency Department for four years and in the EMS field for 20 years. “That is what has made this program so great. Dean and Stacia have incorporated what knowledge we have already obtained as paramedics and have tailored the learning to our needs. Our clinicals also were selected in areas we may not have experienced before, such as Acute Rehab, working on the floor areas and in the OB department. These are areas we do not visit through paramedic and require a specialized type of care, one that is more long-term oriented, which is one of the major differences between a paramedic and a nurse.

“I am so excited for the future,” Staudinger added. “I am still undecided where I may end up, perhaps emergency medicine, which is the direction many are gravitating to, or maybe something in cardiology, which has always been my favorite area. The best part is, the possibilities are endless!”

Pictured, from left, are: instructor Stacia Smith; students Brian Mosier, Sam Reese, Kym Kraus, Elise Staudinger, Nick Shanders, Russell Leonard, Brian Torno and Mike Douglas; instructor Dean Meenach. In front, from left, are: Shonna Adams, Amanda Randleman, Angie Hayes, Rachel Gaudet, Jenger Bell and Sally Louis.

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