Health care careers - from patient care to medical records and lab work - are expected to grow.
Even with the recession taking a toll on job openings, the long-term need and potential shortage of health care workers remains. A lakes area group of health care professionals, educators and work force specialists formed the Rural Minnesota Healthcare Collaborative here.
This comes at the time of an anticipated increase in demand for health care workers as both the general population and current health care professionals age and retire.
Central Lakes College nursing student Jennifer Bedard listened in class last week. Bedard returned from Iraq and Afghanistan where she served as a combat medic. Now she joins others pursuing health care careers, an industry expected to experience job growth. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls» Purchase reprints of this photo.
Craig Nathan, operations manager at the Brainerd WorkForce Center, said traditionally health care education operated on a familiar path - certified nurses aide to licensed practical nurse to registered nurse. To meet the demand for the future, Nathan said rethinking how health care education is offered may be a main objective.
The traditional education method is time consuming, expensive and not conducive to get people in jobs and move them to areas of need rapidly, Nathan said. One of the options is to flatten out what Nathan calls a vertical silo by offering horizontal career options. The idea would allow short-term certificate programs for competencies in radiology, pharmacy, rehabilitation, operating room, neonatal and critical care, for example. Nathan said the ability to add incremental skills to a career portfolio adds flexibility for employees in a demanding field while giving employers immediate benefits of trained staff at reduced cost.
One option to increase career appeal and react to shortages is allowing health care workers to be able to move laterally in their careers, called a career lattice approach that is a national trend being discussed across the state, Nathan said.
Filled to capacity, nursing students Angela Hagen (left) Carol Bock Lopez and Angela Burton took notes in the Adaptation to Health and Illness Throughout the Lifespan nursing class this week at Central Lakes College.Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls» Purchase reprints of this photo.
Current barriers may require an experienced nurse to retake basic classes such as biology before being allowed into another specialty. Education is looking at identifying a core broad-based curriculum for basic courses like medical terminology and anatomy that would be accepted by multiple career tracks.
That kind of streamlining was welcomed by Laurie Bach, Lakewood Health System division director, who participated with the Rural Health Care Collaborative. A bedside nurse for eight years, Bach later moved into management. Through the years, Bach said they've assisted staff interested in going back to school.
A 28-year veteran in the health care industry, Bach is a strong advocate for health care careers. She said students of any age, be they high school graduates or adult learners, should have a streamlined option to pursue medical careers.
CLC nursing student Jennifer Bedard (left) talked with instructor Gayle Nielsen during a break.Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls» Purchase reprints of this photo.
"You can be a computer guru and there is a job for you in health care," Bach said. "You don't have to be a nurse or a doctor. We really do want that adult learner. There are so many career options."
Cost of providing health care education and faculty shortages are additional hurdles. Pat McCormick, interim practical nursing director at Central Lakes College, said the school expanded this year in reaction to the demand by adding an associate degree course for registered nurse candidates at the Staples campus.
"There is definite long-term growth," McCormick said.
The practical nursing program serves 120 students each year while the associate degree program takes 90 students. Applicants still outnumber the room for students.
Bach previously said eliminating duplication and delays in getting people on the job is needed without expediting education so quality is lost. "It's a process, but I think the commitment is there," Bach said. "If you've got commitment you can facilitate change."
RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5852.
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