Mt. Vernon Register-News

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April 24, 2008

Health occupations program at high school growing quickly

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By TESA CULLI

tesa.culli@register-news.com

MT. VERNON — The Area Vocational Center Health Occupations Program at Mt. Vernon Township High School is growing by leaps and bounds thanks to a partnership with St. Mary’s Good Samaritan Hospital in which the health provider worked with administrators to come up with a five-year health care initiative to answer projected needs in health care professions.

“The response from our students and the success of this initiative has been a bit overwhelming,” AVC director Rob Knutson said. “We suspected that interest and growth would occur; however, I felt there would be more time. This is not the case. The fact is, the plan between our partner and the program that was formulated to promote health care as a career choice appears to have worked. Many of our students have stepped up and appear to be willing to answer the call to the field.”

The growth has prompted the MVTHS Board to hire another instructor for the program. The health occupations program was revamped three years ago, Knutson said. Changes in the program began after the hospital identified a current and future shortage in health care professionals.

“Right from the start, their leadership was able to provide longitudinal data outlining significant human resource deficits within the next 10 years,” Knutson said. “This was impressive. Often Area Vocational Center leaders run into situations where [community] partners have waited until such a situation occurs and then seek someone to fix it for them.

“This was definitely not the case with Good Samaritan. I found a partner that, at present, has some immediate needs, but is most interested in projected deficits within 10 years, hospital-wide.”

Knutson said during the discussions on changing the health occupations curriculum, it became apparent that St. Mary’s Good Samaritan wasn’t the only facility that would be experiencing shortages in the coming years. Three main challenges were identified for the shortages: The number of people interested in health care fields created by retiring baby boomers is not sufficient; the number of local students in regional training through Rend Lake College and the AVC was low, and the retention rate of those trained and certified in the community was low; and the local talent was moving away or driving to other communities to work.

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