As the ongoing national conversation about health care in the United States evolves, there is one constant: the need for trained medical professionals, especially in rural America. That need is being addressed on a daily basis by rural community colleges such as Yavapai College.
The college is widely recognized for its excellent nursing program that helps staff hospitals, medical offices and health care agencies throughout Yavapai County. Perhaps less well known but of equal value to the community are the college's other health care education offerings, including Radiologic Technology, Health Information Management, Medical Assistant, Nursing Assistant, Pharmacy Technician and Phlebotomy.
If there's a common characteristic to these programs, it's their success in preparing students for licensing exams and professional jobs. For instance, YC nursing graduates have surpassed graduates from other Arizona and nationwide programs in their success rate on the NCLEX-RN exam, an examination for the licensing of nurses in the United States and Canada.
Mary Brown, director of the Yavapai College nursing program, cites several factors to account for the students' success, the first being the dedication and qualifications of their nursing faculty. "All full time faculty are Registered Nurses and have master's degrees in Nursing," she said. "We have a combined 15 full time faculty on the Verde Valley and Prescott campuses."
YC nursing student and Wills Endowed Scholarship winner Michaela McShane sees her chosen profession as a true vocation. "I've always been attracted to helping people. My grandmothers were both nurses in World War II, and my aunts were also nurses." Yavapai College and the scholarship make it easier for Michaela to juggle motherhood, studies and her job at a local restaurant. "It allows me to spend a little more time with my daughter and buy more books and supplies," she says.
The Radiologic Technology program has seen 97 percent of its graduates pass the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) national certification and registration test the first time. Additionally, an impressive 94 percent of YC Radiologic Technology grads have found medical jobs within six months of graduating.
"In the seven short years the Radiologic Technology program has been in existence, we have met the needs of the medical community by providing qualified entry-level radiographers," notes Program Director Rich LeClair.
"Yavapai College Health Care educational programs have enjoyed many years of close and collaborative partnerships with Northern Arizona Healthcare, and other health care providers in the county," adds Scott Farnsworth, Dean of Sciences, Health and Public Safety. "We would not have the student success in these programs without their support and involvement. We are gratified that these health care providers seek out YC graduates for employment."
When YC students are not in classes, attending weekly off-site Clinical Days or studying, many volunteer in such community outreach events as YC's annual American Red Cross Blood Drive. "SNAYC (Student Nurses Association of Yavapai College) and our faculty members consistently donate their time and energy giving back to others," explains Brown. For instance, nursing staffers from the Verde Campus help families with children at a Free Children's Clinic at the Spirit of Joy Lutheran Church in Clarkdale.
"Our radiology students participate in service learning activities in the first semester of the program by assisting clients of 'People Who Care,' a Prescott-based organization that helps members live independently," adds LeClair.
Nursing and Radiologic Technology are among the varied health care education opportunities available through Yavapai College. Other health care programs, under the umbrella of "Allied Health," develop competent, caring and ethical practitioners who are trained to adapt to continuous changes in the health care system.
"Our Allied Health programs are designed in a way that allows students to apply coursework completed in one program towards the coursework required for another certificate program," says Nancy Bowers, YC Director of Allied Health. "For example, the courses required for the Phlebotomy Technician Certificate can be applied towards the Medical Assistant Certificate. By developing curriculum in this fashion, students have the opportunity to complete shorter programs and gain employment while working towards completing more advanced programs."
Health Information Management, for instance, prepares students to work for a variety of health-related organizations. HIM professionals accurately code diagnoses and procedures for reimbursement and statistical purposes. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment rates for HIM to increase by 18 percent through 2016. Yavapai College offers an Associate of Applied Science degree in Health Information Technology, and graduates of the program are eligible to sit for credentialing examinations offered by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) and the American Academy of Profession Coders (AAPC).
The Pharmacy Technician program is a 1-year program that produces professionals who assist pharmacists in preparing and providing medication and other health products to consumers and patients. Technicians receive written requests, refill requests and verify patient information, among other related tasks. One hundred percent of Yavapai College program grads have passed the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam over the three most recent years for which data is available.
Medical Assistant (MA) is one of the fastest growing occupations in the nation, and medical assistants should see a 58 percent increase in job opportunities in Yavapai, Apache, Coconino and Navajo counties in the years ahead. A medical assistant welcomes patients into the exam room, takes medical histories, patient vitals and prepares each patient for the doctor's examination. To meet the growing need,
Yavapai College's Medical Assistant certificate prepares working students to use computers and databases, know laboratory testing procedures and use more sophisticated instruments. The Medical Assistant program is approved by the American Medical Technologist School Recognition Program, and those receiving certificates from the program are eligible to sit for the most widely recognized credentialing exam available to MAs, the RMA (registered medical assistant).
Other YC Allied Health programs are Nursing Assistant, a job that is projected to grow 15-22 percent by 2022, and Phlebotomy Technician, which prepares students for jobs that are projected to grow by 22 percent or more over the next six years.
"As the baby-boom population ages, the overall need for healthcare services is expected to increase," notes the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics web site. As it does, Yavapai College will continue to provide the training to meet that need.
More information about these and other YC programs is available on the Yavapai College web site at www.yc.edu.