Although medical and nursing schools across the nation are seeing a surge in enrollment, other sectors of the health care field are generating a lot of interest.
Health care administration, public health and a variety of technician and assistant fields are seeing a boost in enrollment as more universities expand their program offerings in an effort to meet demand.
Dr. Linda Delunas, director of the School of Nursing and associate dean of the College of Health and Human Services at Indiana University Northwest, says health professions degrees remain popular and in demand, including among those who are switching careers. “We are seeing an increase in people with college degrees who want to switch gears and become health professionals,” she says.
While some have begun schooling to become a primary care practitioner or generalist nurse, she says other fields like information management and health care administration are growing. “Health Information Management is an in-demand profession including practitioners who enter, compile and report data, and those who analyze data for quality improvement and other uses,” she says.
Universities are even seeing an uptick in the dental field, which Delunas says has a direct impact on the health of an individual. “Dental assistants and, to a lesser extent, dental hygienists are also in demand, especially as the contribution of oral health to overall health is more and more recognized,” she says.
In addition to nursing, Delunas says other popular health care programs at IUN include radiologic sciences and radiography, social work and public health. More entry-level practitioners also are expressing interest in delivering health education programs, she says.
“Delivering health education is becoming very important because the goal is to keep people healthy,” she says. “Accountable Care Organizations have financial incentives to keep people well and healthy.”
Universities themselves are seeing an increased need for educators in the health care field. “I can attest to an urgent need for nursing educators,” says Margaret DeYoung, Associate of Science in Nursing program director for the Crown Point campus of the University of Saint Francis.
In addition to receiving requests from recruiters for access to the university’s graduating nursing students, DeYoung says she receives specific requests to train certified nursing assistants for immediate employment in a variety of health care settings.
The CNA program is just one of several at the University of Saint Francis that has seen an increase in enrollment, DeYoung says. The phlebotomy and medical laboratory technician programs both have been popular, as is a new program that focuses on training advanced practice nurses in anesthesia.
Amelia Wilson, a lecturer at Purdue University Northwest, says she has several students interested in health communications, as well as other fields such as chiropractic care. “Our health studies program is the fastest growing degree at this college,” she says.
The program includes courses that cover most areas of health care, from pharmacology to alternative health care and human development. “One area of growing interest is sports administration, running a health club or fitness center,” Wilson says.
While many health care courses are offered on site at Northwest Indiana universities, some schools have begun to offer programs online to meet the needs of students. Sandie Phalen, director of marketing, development and enrollment at the University of Saint Francis, says students may sign up for several programs online that include Masters of Health Administration and Doctor of Nursing Practice.