Education - Page 6 - Critical Demand

- Page 6
Critical Demand
When it comes to health care, these programs are needed STAT\

By Nancy Menefee Jackson, Contributing Writer

The booming field of health care continues to create demand for employees far beyond just doctors and nurses. Three universities have added programs to address specific areas where qualified graduates are in short supply.

University of Maryland

Palliative care is a relatively young field and refers to caring for people with a serious illness –but it’s not necessarily hospice or end-of-life care.  

A brand-new program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore is offering both a master’s degree and graduate certificates to meet the demands of this emerging field. Placing it under the graduate school reflects the multi-disciplinary, interprofessional nature of the program, and reducing the out-of-state tuition rate makes it more accessible to those in other states and countries.

“All hospice is palliative care, but not all palliative care is hospice care,” explains Mary Lynn McPherson, PharmD, MA, MDE, BCPS, CPE, professor and program director for the online master of science and graduate certificates in palliative care at University of Maryland, Baltimore.

Nor does the care focus only on the physical and pain management. It also involves financial, spiritual and even existential care, as a health care team provides an extra layer of support. It also focuses on symptom management for a lifelimiting illness.

“It really does take a village to take care of someone with a serious illness,” Dr. McPherson says.

The program, which is completely online and doesn’t require synchronized activities, is designed for working adults, such as physicians, pharmacists, nurses, physician assistants, therapists, psychologists, administrators, social workers, chaplains, counselors, bereavement specialists, volunteer specialist and thanatologists.

Each course is just eight weeks long, because research shows taking courses one at a time works better, Dr. McPherson says.

Students take four core courses – principles and practice of hospice and palliative care; communication and health care decision-making; psychosocial, cultural, and spiritual care; and symptom management in advanced illness – and earn a graduate certificate in principles and practice of hospice and palliative care.

Then they can select electives, which are organized into four tracks: clinical, administrative, psychosocial/spiritual or thanatology. If they complete all four electives within one track, they earn a second graduate certificate. Two additional core courses are required for a master’s degree.

Each course is taught by at least two people from different disciplines; so a social worker might be teaching with a nurse practitioner, or a physician with a pharmacist.

“People are concerned about online learning because it’s isolated, but if it’s done well, it’s incredibly interactive,” Dr. McPherson adds. Completing the program  demonstrates a level of competence and can take the place of a one-year fellowship.

Millie Higgins, the senior vice president of nursing and care management at Montgomery Hospice, has just been accepted into the program. She has been working in hospice for 16 years, but never found quite the right program.

“I wanted to do a master’s, but I’m not leaving hospice,” she says. “Finally, this program came along. I always wanted to further my education in hospice. This is what I really wanted to do.”

The program, which began this spring, proved so popular that a second section was added. “I predict this program will do quite well,” Dr. McPherson says. “We’re pleased to make it affordable and doable.”

Stevenson University

If you’ve ever watched a medical show, you’ve heard the doctors say something like, “type and cross match” to prepare for a blood transfusion. Or your own doctor has ordered a CBC test or perhaps a complete metabolic panel.

Then it falls to the medical laboratory scientists to carry out those tests, who not only understand the science but all of the rules and regulations, as well as how to operate automated laboratory machinery. They also have to work fast to find answers if they’re involved in a trauma case or a possible heart attack.

While machines are used for some tests, others, such as diagnosing anemia, still depend on a medical laboratory scientist peering into a microscope. Molecular testing falls to them, and as genetics pave the way for more personalized medicine, medical laboratory scientists will be help answer the question: Will this particular drug work for this particular patient? Medical laboratory scientists are particularly involved in answering that question for patients with coagulation disorders.

Stevenson University partners with Sinai Hospital so that medical laboratory science majors attend their senior year classes at the hospital.

Demand for medical laboratory scientists, who must pass a national certification exam, is huge.

“Last year, the entire class had jobs before they graduated,” says Vivi-Anne Griffey, M.S., MLS (ASCP), program coordinator. “The program is in its 11th year, and we’ve had 100 percent placement.”

Part of the problem is that this vital field of medicine takes place behind the scenes; Griffey jokes, “We just don’t see it on TV. We don’t have MLS Los Angeles.”

Students at Stevenson take four semesters of pre-requisite classes including, chemistry, biology and English, and then enter the program in their junior year, with laboratory science classes that focus on hematology, clinical chemistry, immunology, microbiology and transfusion medicine. Students also take a management course with a focus on budgeting, and they also learn about federal regulations and inspections.

Their senior year is spent in clinical rotations at Sinai, where they learn how to tell if the sample is a good one, how to troubleshoot and how to know if the test results are valid. They work side by side with scientists and laboratory technicians in each department within the lab.

“The partnership with Sinai has worked very well,” Griffey notes. “When they graduate they feel very comfortable with the instruments. There’s a work flow we can’t simulate in a student lab.”

Stevenson University has articulation agreements with the Community College of Baltimore County and Anne Arundel Community College so that students with an associate’s degree in laboratory technology can finish their bachelor’s at Stevenson. Also, students with a biology or biotechnology major can get a categorical certificate by taking classes in just one area, such as hematology or molecular biology, and sitting for just that portion of the exam, which then allows them to become a technologist.


Students with clinical, technical and policy backgrounds converge at UMBC for its master’s Critical demand

continued on page 10

Healthy outlook for jobs in health care

Health care continues to offer plenty of job opportunities, and an aging baby boomer population will only accelerate that trend.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that employment of health information technicians will see a 22 percent increase through 2022 

Employment of medical laboratory technologist and technicians is projected to grow by 16 percent in the coming years, much faster than the average. Median pay in 2016 was $50,550 per year.

Between 2000 and 2008, the number of palliative care programs in hospitals with 50 or more beds more than doubled, increasing from 658 to 1,486. •