As the number of home health workers are expected to grow by 1.6 million jobs by 2020, according to a report from Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute, colleges are recognizing a demand to include home health care training into their curriculums.
This month, Northeastern Wisconsin Technical College (NWTC) in Green Bay embarked on an expansion of the school’s health sciences building. The already existing three-story structure looks to add on another floor to accommodate three new training labs—one of which specifically designated for home health care worker training.
The first college in Wisconsin to offer an Associates Degree in Wellness, NWTC’s expansion was a necessity, especially when considering recent healthcare trends, according to Cynthia Theys, associate dean of health sciences.
“We’re always trying to stay a step ahead of the trends we’re seeing in patient healthcare,” said Theys. “Right now, we see a big shift coming in keeping people out of costly institutions.”
This is where the school’s personal care worker program comes into play. The program is only one third of the expansion plans, joining a wellness lab focusing on exercise physiology and a simulation lab for NWTC nursing students.
Don’t expect to find Bunsen burners or glass beakers in NWTC’s home health lab. Instead, the training space will resemble a home-like setting to give students a feel for the working environment they will experience after graduation.
“These graduates are doing work in people’s homes, not in a nursing center,” said Theys. “We worked with designers to say that we want [the lab] to look like one of the homes in the area.”
The lab’s design will take after a 1970s ranch-style home, as these types of single-story homes resemble many of the residences in the particular area, according to Associate Dean Scott Anderson, who is also organizing the school’s new wellness center.
“One of the trends we’re seeing is the whole concept of aging in place and keeping people healthy in their homes longer,” said Anderson. “Now we’re designing a learning space that will have an impact on that.”
Other features of the home health lab include built-in barriers—such as narrow doorways and other non-compliant features under the Americans with Disabilities Act—so students learning and working in this environment can learn how to care for individuals with these obstacles in place, said Anderson.
Reason for the expansion is two-fold, as it addresses an increasing demand from the number of students enrolling in NTWC’s health programs and also creates partnerships with nearby home health agencies in town.
While the school’s personal care aides program is only about a year old, according to Theys, the training program had 70-80 graduates in its first year. On average, the program looks to graduate about 10 students a month, which NWTC has relayed in the past to Helping Hands, a local home health agency, to help expand its business.
NWTC is not the only school to implement home health worker training into its curriculum. Also noticing a nationwide demand for home health workers, the College of Southern Nevada (CSN) has designed a course to prepare students for jobs as home care aides.
The CSN course, developed by the Department of Labor with federal funding, has already seen two of its recent graduates find positions with a Nevada home care agency.
Growth looks promising for home health workers, according to Steve Gleicher, owner and operations director for Right at Home—the agency that hired the CSN graduates—in an article from Las Vegas Review-Journal.
“The growth prospect for health care aides is huge and the task before us is getting trained, qualified and responsible people to work in this industry,” said Gleicher in the article. “The CSN program is positioning itself to provide these individuals to grow with us.”
NWTC is also confident it will see even further interest from students wanting to enroll into its various health programs, home health included.
“Demand will increase as we’re hoping, but we may be a little ahead of our time,” said Theys. “As things evolve and some of the federal healthcare reforms fall into place, demand for the personal aide course will rise.”
NWTC received substantial community support in terms of capital dollars for the $3.5 million expansion project before its late May groundbreaking.
“We went out on a fundraising campaign, with various businesses and private donors donating over a million dollars to see this vision happen,” said Anderson. “They responded with enthusiasm and with dollars.”
School officials anticipate full occupancy for its three health labs in January 2014.
Written by Jason Oliva