BELLEVUE, WASH. — Bellevue Community College (BCC) has received a three-year, $1.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to address severe shortages of health-care workers locally and statewide.
BCC will use the grant to expand capacity in its associate-degree Nursing program and add advanced training in Medical Dosimetry and Radiologist Assistant to its existing bachelor’s-degree program in Radiation and Imaging Sciences. The college will also use the grant to attract more high school students, especially those from underserved populations, into health-care careers.
“Our national and regional health-care systems are in serious condition, squeezed between escalating demand from aging Baby Boomers on one side and an acute shortage of health-care workers on the other. This grant will help us address that ailment by increasing the number of skilled practitioners in some of the most critical fields, said Jean Floten, president of Bellevue Community College.
“We are deeply grateful to the Department of Labor for recognizing the quality of our programs and for supporting us as we continue to expand our health-care programs to meet the most urgent needs of our community, Floten said.
BCC has more than doubled its health-care offerings over the past five years, now offering 22 health care-related certificate and degree programs and serving more than 1,000 students.
BCC will use the grant, in part, to expand its associate-degree Nursing program by admitting 16 additional students each year (currently, the program admits 57 students annually), upgrade its nursing skills lab and make the program more accessible by accepting new students twice yearly, adding a part-time option and offering summer classes.
A second focus of the grant will be to launch the Pacific Northwest’s first training programs in Medical Dosimetry and Radiologist Assistant — emerging, high-demand specialties for which there are currently no training programs in the Northwest, other than expensive and time-consuming on-the-job training in hospitals.
The new programs, as part of the college’s Bachelor of Applied Science degree program in Radiation and Imaging Sciences, are intended for current medical professionals and will be available to students across the state through closed-circuit conferencing technology. They are expected to begin in Fall 2009 and serve a total of 25 students each year.
Medical dosimetry is a subspecialty of Radiation Oncology that focuses on radiotherapy treatment planning, dose calculations and dose monitoring for cancer patients.
Radiologist assistants are experienced, certified radiology technologists who through advanced training have become qualified to serve as radiologist “extenders, similar to physician assistants. Radiologist assistants perform the less-complex and less-invasive imaging procedures, increasing the number of patients who can be served by freeing radiologists to spend more time on image interpretation and diagnosis.
Governor Chris Gregoire signed legislation last week that defines Radiologist Assistant as a profession requiring state registration and certification. BCC’s new program in that specialty will help students prepare for state certification exams.
The third goal of the grant project is to strengthen the pipeline of future health-care professionals by attracting more students, especially those from underserved populations, into health-care careers.
The grant will fund presentations to students in area high schools, an annual Nursing and Allied Health Careers Day at BCC, and a dual college- and high school-credit course introducing students to the variety of health-care careers now available and to strategies for academic success.
“This grant will touch more than 4,000 people directly, but indirectly it will reach many thousands more in the form of improved medical care, said Dr. Paula Boyum, BCC’s Vice President for Workforce Development. “Ultimately, it will also reduce hospital training costs, introduce new efficiencies in patient-care delivery and create new career opportunities for current workers in radiation and imaging sciences, Boyum said.
Grant goals and activities were developed with assistance from the College Credit and Careers Network, the Northeast (King County) Vocational Area Cooperative, Seattle/King Co. Workforce Development Council, Workforce Investment Act youth service providers, Washington State Hospital Association, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, and nine regional hospitals: Evergreen Hospital Medical Center, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Overlake Hospital Cancer Center, RadiantCare Radiation Oncology, Swedish Cancer Institute, Tacoma/Valley Radiation Oncology Centers, University of Washington Medical Center, Valley Medical Center and Wenatchee Valley Cancer Treatment Center.