It’s a big weekend for the first ever class of paramedics to graduate from Missoula College.

It’s an associate of science degree in paramedicine, housed in the college’s Department of Health Professions.

Dave Kuntz, Director of Strategic Communications at the University of Montana provided more details about the program.

“A few years ago, with the acknowledgment of the health care labor shortage here in western Montana and across our state, Missoula College, which is the two year entity with the University of Montana created the new Paramedicine Program, which allows folks to get that licensing they need to be paramedics, in partnership with the Missoula Emergency Services, and stay here in Missoula. That's a four semester, which is about a 16 month program requiring about 1000 hours of hands on experience. “After two years, we have our first cohort that's going to be graduating this weekend from Missoula College with these degrees.”

Kuntz said Missoula Emergency Services has played a significant role in helping the program graduate its first class.

“With that partnership in mind, as graduates get to the finish line, they have a job,” he said. “They're waiting for them. So it really solves multiple problems, most immediately helping with the healthcare shortages here in Montana, but it also gives people who grow up here and are looking to switch careers here in western Montana, a really viable path so that in two years, they can have some of these high paying jobs that are in high need here in Missoula and the surrounding valleys.”

Although Kuntz said it would be nice to keep these new paramedics here in western Montana, with their skill set they can practice their new crime almost anywhere.

“Our goal is to keep folks here in western Montana so we can see that investment come to fruition because that's where the need is, and that's why this program was created,” he said. “But this is obviously a skill that can be utilized across the country. And in you know that healthcare shortage isn’t just something that's being experienced here in western Montana, but probably across the country too, so this is a 16 month course that really gives you that career skill set that can be needed across their entire career.”

Instruction is supervised by a diverse array of health care professionals, including nurses, doctors, flight paramedics, physical therapists and physician assistants.

Commencement for these graduates will be Saturday morning in the UM Adams Center.

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