Students practice their skills during a lab for their CNA course.
As the population ages, health care professionals are more in demand than ever. In fact, new health-related jobs are projected to grow 18 percent through 2026, "much faster than the average for all occupations," according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
For St. Clair County Community College – home to Michigan's oldest community college's nursing program – that trend means doubling down on what it has done well for the past 95 years and expanding efforts to ensure its students thrive in one of the nation's 2.4 million anticipated new health sciences jobs.
Health Science students learn about emergency scenarios.
SC4 has a long history of leading the way in health sciences education in southeast Michigan. The college has offered programs and certificates in allied health, certified nurse aid, health information technology, paramedic/EMT, radiologic technology and therapeutic massage for a number of years.
Its nursing program is continuously ranked as one of the best among both two- and four-year Michigan-based institutions, and its radiologic technology program has a five-year, 100 percent passing rate on national certification exams.
According to SC4 Dean of Health Sciences Jenny Giles-Voss, however, the college continues to strategically approach growth and learning opportunities that better prepare more SC4 students to thrive in in-demand health care careers upon graduation.
To meet student and employer needs in select program areas, the college is focused on both increasing capacity and expanding clinical sites with longtime and new clinical partners.
"We recently increased our traditional ADN and radiologic technology cohorts and have partnered with new clinical sites to expand training opportunities," Giles-Voss says.
The college is also focused on offering new programs that support evolving health care needs. Newly introduced and recently accredited programs at the college include magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and medical assisting, with a new respiratory therapy program slated to begin in fall 2019.
Additionally, programs such as health information technology offer students a different kind of health care career path whereRadiology students examine X-rays to determine a diagnosis.
they can learn how to manage data to assist with patient care, medical education, research and more. It's a field growing "faster than average," says the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, with a 22 percent increase expected through 2022.
Facilities and equipment
SC4's health sciences programs are also getting a big boost thanks to a Capital Outlay project approved by the state Legislature to support higher education job training and fund $4.9 million of the $9.8 million Health Sciences A.J. Theisen Building renovation.
The renovation accelerates the expansion of programs, allows for a more interdisciplinary approach to patient care, and will serve more students via advanced teaching systems.
Those advancements include increased simulation exercises, to which five rooms in the new state-of-the-art facility will be devoted, including a simulated ambulance bay and home setting. Additionally, the college recently invested $150,000 in highly developed manikins and equipment that present students with realistic scenarios they will need to deal with on the job.
This expands their already robust manikin-training operation. It also continues to benefit from equipment donations from health care partners such as a General Electric Mobile Radiographic Unit donated by McLaren Port Huron and an ambulance donation by Tri-Hospital EMS.
"Traditionally, every discipline has learned separately, but in the real world we work together as one health care team," Giles-Voss explains. "This renovated facility will help students work more collaboratively and hone their critical thinking and development skills."
Students practice skills needed to become a certified nurses aide.
Employers that hire SC4 graduates are taking note of SC4's continued commitment to strengthening health care opportunities on campus. About 80 percent of McLaren Port Huron's new nurses are graduates of SC4, says Chief Nursing Officer Christine Sansom, RN, MSN – who is herself an SC4 alumna.
"Health care is an interdisciplinary, team effort. Understanding each other's roles and disciplines gives patients the highest quality care experience possible," Sansom says. "The fact that SC4 has thought about this and is planning for it within its curriculum gives students a greater advantage.
Enhanced partnerships also result in enhanced clinical experiences and increased job placements.
"We strive to provide the best clinical experience possible for students, and we find that graduates are very well-prepared for our positions, which is a reflection of SC4's comprehensive clinical program and experienced faculty."
At about a third of the cost of four-year institutions, SC4's programs mean less debt and high earnings potential for graduates in fields that are struggling to fill an increased number of needed positions.
"There are so many unique avenues to pursue in health care right now," says Giles-Voss. "It's an exciting time for those interested in improving patient care and technology."
Echoed Sansom, "Health care is an in-demand field. Nurses and other skilled clinicians have the privilege of caring for patients and their families when they need it the most. When you leave your job, and you know you've made a difference in the lives of others -- it's rewarding work."
For more information on SC4 programs, visit sc4.edu/health.
For more information on projected health occupation outcomes, visit https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/home.htm.