Focus on science, pre-med, nursing is good for everyone’s health

02/24/2012 9:51 AM

02/24/2012 9:51 AM

As anyone who has accessed the news media can tell you, higher education is the focus of a myriad of issues these days. From concerns about tuition costs, to shrinking government financial aid programs, to graduation rates, to rapid changes in technology, higher education is faced with a number of issues that affect individual institutions and the communities we serve.

Newman University was founded in 1933 to train teachers. This commitment endures today. We train more teachers in Wichita and throughout western Kansas than any other private college in our region. Our education programs are strong and will always be a focus for us. Another focus for Newman has been maintaining all of our quality programs at an affordable price.

A growing focus area for us at Newman University – in addition to the ones noted above – is delivering basic sciences education and training in the pre-medical, nursing and allied health arenas. Newman University has historically produced graduates in these areas who become strong professionals, making tremendous contributions to the health and well-being of their communities.

The demand for science and health care graduates continues to grow. A recently released U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ employment projections report shows that the fastest-growing field is registered nurses. In 2010, registered nurses claimed 2.7 million jobs. Projected employment for 2020 is 3.4 million, a 26 percent increase over 10 years.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics also projects that the need for health care professionals across the board will increase dramatically between now and 2018. The bureau predicts jobs for nurse anesthetists will increase by 23 percent, radiologic technologists by 17 percent, respiratory therapists by 21 percent, occupational therapy assistants by 30 percent and diagnostic sonographers by 18 percent. We offer all of these programs at Newman.

Over the past 15 years, Newman’s School of Nursing and Allied Health has grown rapidly to meet the region’s need for highly trained health care professionals. Our programs have established strong records of academic excellence and accreditation, and our students have established a stellar record of performance on licensure exams.

The Newman Science Department has also built a solid reputation for excellence. Over the past 10 years, 96 percent of Newman pre-med graduates have been accepted into medical schools, and Newman ranks third (behind only the University of Kansas and Kansas State University) among all Kansas colleges and universities in the number of students selected for the highly competitive University of Kansas Medical School Scholars in Primary Care program.

Yet in order to ensure that our curriculum and student educational experience remain of the highest quality, we are taking note of important changes ahead. The government and the industry itself are placing greater emphasis on the availability of patient-simulation education, specially designed learning spaces, and greater access to industry-standard technology.

Currently, a national and regulatory push for quality, safety, technology and interdisciplinary collaboration is reshaping the educational landscape in these disciplines. Simulation technology, interactive learning, and dynamic, flexible learning environments must be integrated into all aspects of the student learning experience. Successful implementation of these concepts is tied to accreditation of the programs.

While Newman does utilize simulation, it is not at the level being mandated, which is why we are actively engaged in local efforts investigating the creation of a major simulation center involving all area higher education and health care providers. We are also assessing our own facility needs for the future. This increased focus in the sciences and health care education is something we owe our students, our science and medical partners, our community and our region.

Undoubtedly, the coming year will be full of debates, predictions, changes and challenges for higher education. Certainly, I’ll be actively advocating for government to stop shrinking financial-aid programs designed to help students access the dynamic educational channels that our colleges and universities work so hard to provide.

At the same time, we’ll be focused on the sciences and health care professions to ensure that quality instruction and programs will benefit the health of people and communities across the region in 2012, and well beyond.

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