|Written by Greg Ruland|
|Monday, 24 October 2011 12:00|
The Allied Health program at Yavapai College has grown in recent years, but it still needs support from the community in order to provide the best opportunities for its students.
That was the message Thursday afternoon, Oct. 13, as Allied Health Program Director Nancy Bowers explained exactly what the school contributes to the health care industry before a group of Camp Verde Chamber of Commerce members. A registered nurse herself, Bowers has worked for the college for the past five years.
The program offers a variety of courses and certifications in the medical field, from learning the ropes of being a nurse’s assistant or a pharmacy technician to radiology work and medical record keeping.
Bowers said the program has grown by leaps and bounds over the past five years, after getting a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor.
“It was a pretty skimpy program up until about 2006,” Bowers said. After the grant, however, different heath programs in Yavapai, Coconino, Navajo and Apache counties joined together to form the Northern Arizona Allied Health Initiative, Bowers said. Advisory groups were created to examine exactly what the needs of health education and services were in Northern Arizona.
Yavapai College has been able to use those resources to expand the offerings of the program, with the radiology program being the most recent addition in 2009.
“This really prepares people for employment in the community,” Bowers said.
The program offers training in a number of fields that vary in length from just taking a single class to others that require more than four semesters of coursework, Bowers said, from eight credit hours to 91 credit hours.
“You can go to school as little or as long as you want,” Bowers said.
The students come in a wide range of ages. Bowers said the average age is over 35, with people looking for a change in careers.
Of course, the college accepts students out of high school into the programs, and the school even partners with local high schools so students can earn up to five credit hours toward the nursing assistant curriculum.
“It gets them started earlier,” Bowers said.
The Allied Health program is set up to allow students to explore the different potential career possibilities, Bowers said, although a team of advisors will help guide them along if needed.
“If we wait too long to make up our mind, nine times out of 10 we won’t do anything,” Bowers said.
It also helps people discover if they are cut out for a particular field of study.
“We find out if you’re the kind of person who likes human beings and doesn’t mind touching them or if people cough or sneeze on you,” Bowers said. “Or the other stuff people do when they’re sick.”
One key to the Allied Health program is getting students practical real world experience through internships. The college is in need of more medical facilities to agree to take interns and show them the ropes. Bowers said taking in an intern is certainly a disruption, something that may turn some professionals off, but its something that’s absolutely necessary to create more qualified people to enter the health care field.
“You can’t just keep turning your face and say, ‘Somebody else will do it,’” Bowers said.
The potential interns must meet a certain level of training and academic performance before they are allowed to work in such a setting.
“They will have finished theory and passed their classes with a C or better,” Bowers said. In some of the courses, the threshold for earning a C is higher, the 85th percentile in some cases.
The school could also use space in which to teach students skills, Bowers said. The community college system has taken massive cuts in state funding and resources enjoyed in the past just aren’t available right now. The Yavapai College campus in Camp Verde just shut its doors, for instance.
Linda Buchanan, a coordinator with the college, said the school is also looking for people to donate or set up a legacy fund to ensure students in the Verde Valley can earn scholarships and otherwise take advantage of what the Allied Health program has to offer.
Employment is a difficult prospect in many fields currently, due to the economic situation in Arizona and beyond. Still, there are no shortage of openings in the fields the college health program trains for, said Pat Miner, and academic advisor with the college.
“Are there jobs available?” Miner asked. “The answer is a definite yes.”
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