Where do paramedic students get to train in the busiest Emergency Department in Minnesota, in a nationally renowned Burn Center, in Level I Trauma Center operating rooms, and diverse clinical departments in both metro and greater Minnesota medical centers (Photos 1-3)? Where do they train with experienced paramedics in both rural and metro ambulance services (Photo 4)? And where are didactic and skills training supplemented by simulation training and field training in vehicle extrication and rappelling (Photos 5- 8)? HCMC Emergency and Critical Care Education has partnered with Ridgewater College, with campuses in Willmar and Hutchinson, to create a one-of-a-kind paramedic program that offers the best of rural and metro Minnesota settings for pre-hospital and hospital-based clinical training, as well as comprehensive classroom and skills training. With its 5th class recently graduated, the HCMC/Ridgewater paramedic program has a unique history of innovation and collaboration, high graduation rates, national board pass rates and employment rates, and a reputation for excellence. To date, the program has graduated nearly 140 paramedics who have gone on to work with rural, urban and suburban ambulance services across Minnesota, from Hibbing to Mankato, Willmar and Hutchinson to Redwing, as well as the metro area.
In the fall of 2005, metro and rural ambulance services in greater Minnesota needed paramedics and high-quality local training programs. Bev Hartzburg (Willmar Ambulance Service and Ridgewater College), Mike Boehme (Dean of Instruction, Ridgewater College), Charlie Moen (Director of EMS Education, HCMC), and Brian Mahoney (Medical Director, Hennepin EMS) set about to develop an accredited paramedic program that would draw on unique facilities and expert personnel at HCMC and Ridgewater College and build a collaborative program that would equip students for paramedicine practice in both rural and urban Minnesota. The innovative program was launched in March 2007, graduating its first class of 28 paramedics in 2008.