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VOL. 37 | NO. 18 | Friday, May 03, 2013

Healthy bottom line for Vol State, students

By Hollie Deese

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Vol State’s Allied Health program is so popular with students that a new $10 million facility is being built to house five of its fields of study.

Under construction and tentatively set to open August 9 – in time for the fall semester – the structure on the Gallatin campus of Vol State Community College, will be home to teaching:

  • Emergency Medical Technician
  • Ophthalmic Technology
  • Sleep Diagnostics Technology
  • Diagnostic Medical Sonography (Ultrasound)
  • Medical Laboratory Technology

“Those five programs were prioritized for that building either because they didn’t have any existing space or they needed space for expansion,” says Elvis Brandon, dean of Allied Health. “For example, we currently have way more people interested in our EMT basic and paramedic program than we can accommodate.”

The two-year degrees result in jobs. Ophthalmic Technology, the only one of its kind in the state, had a 100 percent employment placement rate in 2011. The technicians work under the direction of an ophthalmologist, a medical doctor.

In 201l, the graduates also had a 100 percent pass rate on the national licensing exams. The new building will allow the school to double the enrollment in that program from the current average of 12 to more than 20.

Vol State currently runs two full-time cohorts each semester of 24 students each. The new building will allow them to expand to three full-time cohorts of 24.

The Sleep Diagnostic program is also getting a major upgrade from the space it currently shares with the dental technicians to a state-of-the-art sleep lab inside the 28,000-square-foot facility.

This move is much-needed since the Tennessee Board of Respiratory Care laid out new guidelines technicians must complete, including that they must graduate from an accredited sleep program, of which Vol State is just one of four. The next nearest program is at Miller-Motte in Clarksville.

“Unfortunately sleep problems are related to obesity so we have seen quite a bit of growth in that field,” Brandon says.

The Medical Laboratory Technician program will be able to move to the campus at St. Thomas Hospital in Nashville, where it has always been located. The hospital donated space to the school. The move will allow more students to enroll, and many are already applying.

“We are running about 10 or 12 each year right now and are hoping to double that to about 20,” Brandon says. “I was speaking with the program director yesterday, and we already have 56 applications – more than double the average number of applications we normally have so it is creating a stir on campus.”

Vol State has an enrollment of more than 8,000 students in its average semester and has grown by more than 21 percent in the last five years. Pre-Allied Health is the second most popular major on campus with 17 percent of students and EMT is the second most popular program with 13 percent of students. Allied Health programs regularly have job placement rates of more than 90 percent.

“The health care sector has been stable even with the downturn in the job market, so we really haven’t had any problems placing the graduates of the program,” Brandon says. “Some of the programs are in a little bit higher demand than others, and one of those is sleep diagnostics.”

Once complete, the new building will give a boost to all of the Allied Health programs. “We will be adding two state-of-the-art simulation labs, and we have the hi-fidelity simulation Manikins that are used in medical schools,” Brandon says.

“The simulations give the students an opportunity to practice their lab skills on mannequins before they go into the clinical setting and start putting their hands on patients. All of our programs are really popular anyway, but the building has created revived buzz about the Allied Health program.”