Dave Johnson


Most job descriptions include a familiar, catchall bullet point: “other duties as assigned.” Hennepin Technical College Community Paramedic alum Dave Johnson likes to joke that that bullet point is his job.  For the new and quickly growing field of community paramedicine, every workday is different. And Dave wouldn’t have it any other way.

In 2011, Minnesota became the first state in the U.S. to recognize the Community Paramedic certification for trained Emergency Medical Technicians-Paramedic (EMT-P).  This certification offers experienced paramedics additional coursework and clinical training to extend health care services to individuals who are underserved. While the traditional paramedic might work to stabilize a patient on the way to the emergency room, the Community Paramedic provides treatment, support, and/or referrals to emergency and non-emergency services over a long-term basis.     

Hennepin Technical College was the first school in the country to offer a Community Paramedic certification program and Dave was a student in one of the first graduating classes. He was also the first person to be certified as a Community Paramedic at Hennepin County Medical Center. All of these “firsts” mean one thing: Dave is at the forefront of a new and exciting field.

“My job is the most stressful, most difficult, and most professionally rewarding thing I’ve ever done,” Dave says. Along with another Community Paramedic, Dave is working to figure out what community paramedicine means for Hennepin County Medical Center. One of the best things about community paramedicine is that it’s adaptable; the way a Community Paramedic works in rural Minnesota can’t—and shouldn’t—be the same way a Community Paramedic works in a more urban area. This fluidity allows Community Paramedics to deliver service where and how it matters most. “Community Paramedics work in between a couple different places,” Dave says. “The goal is to find people who have fallen through the cracks and make healthcare more consumable.”

In Dave’s case, the Community Paramedic role has meant a decrease in the quantity of patients he sees. As a paramedic, he was used to helping over 12,000 people each year. Now he helps 80 to 100 and the results have been remarkable. One of Dave’s clients hasn’t been to the emergency room in three months and another formerly homeless person recently got approved for an apartment. Dave describes these as “small victories,” but it’s not difficult to imagine how big their cumulative effects are for the individuals themselves and for the overall healthcare system.

Kai Hjermstad, HTC Community Paramedic program coordinator, is impressed but not surprised by Dave’s many successes. “Dave was one of our students who had the same passion as we do: championing Community Paramedicine across Minnesota and the Nation.”

Back in 2012, Dave was a nine-year emergency medical services veteran working as a paramedic at Hennepin County Medical Center. He loved his job but he longed for more. When a co-worker mentioned the brand new Community Paramedic program at HTC, Dave decided he had to pursue it. “HTC gave me the toolbox and let me run with it,” Dave says.  For the people that Dave continues to help in his ever-changing role, it’s clear that his HTC education has made all the difference.

Last updated by jhanson : 2016-08-01 11:35:43