By Tierney Gallagher
While recent technological advances have helped move the healthcare industry forward, they have also created new needs in education and technology training for the medical field. Clemson’s College of Health, Education and Human Development has taken steps to address these needs and prepare students for successful careers as healthcare professionals.
New technologies, changing needs
Workforce requirements for professionals in the healthcare field change as new technologies develop and alter the healthcare system. Dr. Lee Crandall, chair of the Department of Public Health Sciences, says that new needs in education and training exist because of how sensitive the field is to changes in technology and how important they are to enhancing healthcare.
“This is a particular issue in healthcare because the technology changes so fast,” Crandall said. “Everybody’s job skills become obsolete to some extent after they get out into the workforce, but it just happens faster in healthcare. There is rapid obsolescence in medicine because of the rapid pace of discovery.”
Many recent advances in technology deal with genetics, electronics and drug delivery systems. While these changes can be hard to keep up with, they are ultimately beneficial for healthcare in terms of helping patients and saving time.
“One of the things we’re seeing with the changes is that we will continue to need more nurses with a lot of these technology skills,” said Dr. Rosanne Pruitt, director of the School of Nursing. “With advances in technology, the delivery system has become much more sophisticated. Most of this is related to patient safety and proficiency.”
Education and training for the future
Keeping up with the technological demands of the medical field is not only important for enhancing current healthcare practices, but also for improving education for future healthcare professionals. It is crucial to prepare students to address these changing needs and keep up with them once they enter the workforce.
As new healthcare technologies develop, training often begins at the hospital level before moving to community-college based training and then finally to training at a baccalaureate level. Crandall emphasizes that training at the university level is valued because it helps put people into the workforce who have a broader background and are not just trained in how to use the technologies.
“Training people with a baccalaureate degree who have an understanding of the healthcare system is beneficial,” Crandall said. “If a particular technology becomes obsolete, they have a broad enough background so that they can understand the issues of information and the issues of technology and make the necessary transition much more easily than people who have only technical skills.”
Pruitt believes that needs related to technology will continue to change healthcare dramatically as students enter the workforce. “Students in school now are natives to technology,” she said. “They think differently and they solve problems differently. I think that we’ll see over the next couple of decades that things will actually move even faster.”
Enhancing education at Clemson
The College of HEHD has made several adjustments to accommodate these needs over recent years. Students have benefitted from the addition of new programs and the inclusion of new technologies.
The Department of Public Health Sciences recently began offering a concentration in cardiovascular imaging to address the growing need for graduates trained for leadership roles in cardiovascular imaging. Clemson’s program offers state-of-the-art technical training through the Greenville Hospital System/University Medical Center’s Institute for Vascular Health, and supplements this technical expertise with broad training in public health, healthcare systems and focused leadership training. The School of Nursing has added a variety of technologies to classrooms and labs, including electronic medication dispensers, electronic health records, human patient simulators, an IV simulator, and the Pediatric Virtual Patient System. Working with these technologies helps give students the opportunity to practice and expand their skills by experiencing situations that actually happen once they enter the workforce.
The College is also pushing forward in terms of technology through research. The School of Nursing is currently developing an interdisciplinary innovation center in collaboration with computer science faculty. The center pairs human patient simulators with virtual worlds to address patient safety research. The healthcare genetics lab is conducting research on new advancements in treatment and patient outcomes related to genetics.
Pruitt says that as technologies continue to change, the College will evaluate ways to enhance programs and facilities in order to better prepare students. “These needs will only continue and escalate as discoveries are made,” Pruitt said. “We need to stay on top of these changes and make sure that our students are prepared for the future.”
Who does this help?
Staying at the forefront of technological advances and demands of the medical field is not only important to help Clemson students, but also the communities they will serve as healthcare professionals.
By addressing industry needs in educational programs, Pruitt says Clemson is ultimately helping to enhance healthcare for patients. “It’s going to better prepare students to utilize the technology and that will improve the care that’s provided to individuals in the community,” she said. “It will help prepare them as future professionals and ultimately that has an impact on the patients that they serve.”