Joining Forces to Address Healthcare Shortage | Virginia Peninsula Community College

Joining Forces to Address Healthcare Shortage

August 13, 2021
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President Towuanna Porter Brannon addresses participants. 

Boot camps usually are associated with the military, but that wasn’t the case recently at Thomas Nelson’s Historic Triangle campus in Williamsburg. Instead, more than two dozen students from Williamsburg-James City County Schools participated in a boot camp to get a head start on their dual enrollment classes for the fall semester.

The students, each a Claude Moore Scholar enrolled in a CNA (clinical nursing assistant), CMA (clinical medical assistant), or EMT (emergency medical technician) program at Thomas Nelson, attended a four-day boot camp to learn what they are getting themselves into in the burgeoning health-care field.

“What you are doing right now, this boot camp is so important,” Thomas Nelson President Dr. Towuanna Porter Brannon told the students. “It will prepare you for days that you have no idea are coming.”

She said she many of her peers went through a similar program at their age, and she knows it’s difficult for current students to imagine adults sitting “in these same seats.”

“We are doing things that are wild, including me, a college president,” she said. “You can start here, and you can go far. This is a great start.”

Thomas Nelson, W-JCC Schools, and the Claude Moore Charitable Foundation didn’t stumble upon this partnership. It was created by design.

One recent nationwide study predicts a shortage of more than 400,000 home health aides and nurse practitioners by 2025. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the need for EMTs and paramedics will grow 6% from 2019-29. That’s a higher rate than the average for all professions. Closer to home, Brannon has been told there will be a need for 10,000 healthcare workers in Hampton Roads in the next five years.

So the three groups joined forces to provide dual enrollment classes in health care. The boot camp gave the students a glimpse of what they can expect when those classes start in late August.

“Each day, we’ve had an instructor come in from our CNA or health-care technician program, our EMT program, and our medical assisting program to give the students an overview of what to expect on day one of the course,” said Paul Long, the dean of the College’s Public Safety, Allied Heath and Human Services division.

 The students went on a tour of the facilities, including the labs and classrooms they’ll be using when the dual enrollment classes begin. They also learned about career development and soft skills, and will have a chance to develop those skills further in the fall semester with “Focus Fridays,” which will be held once a month and cover resume writing, interviewing and more.

“Really, the crux of this (boot camp) was to introduce the students now to what their college experience is going to look like in a few weeks,” Long said.

It wouldn’t be possible without all three entities. Dr. Claude Moore was a successful physician in Northern Virginia who established his namesake foundation in 1987 to fund educational opportunities in the state. The scholars program came along 20 years later, and according to its website, “focuses on broadening perspectives and opportunities in early education intervention to encourage students to pursue high demand, entry-level healthcare careers.”

Long said the timing has been perfect.

“What better time to try to work with public health than looking at all of these elementary, middle and high school students who are living through a pandemic, and it’s going to pique their interest on a new career for them,” he said.

 The ultimate goal for the Moore Foundation is to have a similar program in all the public high schools in the state. Long noted all three parties made sure the program did not adversely affect the students’ high school schedules.

“We wanted it to have no impact on their ability to have extracurricular activity,” he said, noting the students will be at Thomas Nelson from 12:45-2 p.m. Monday-Friday. “They’re back at their home school in time for whatever extracurricular activity they may participate in.”

The dual enrollment courses will begin in late August and run until January. The students will be earning high school credits, college credits and have the potential to earn career and technical certifications. They even earned one college credit from Thomas Nelson by attending the boot camp.

It’s all about setting up students for success, and giving them an opportunity.

Your life is just beginning,” Dr. Catherine Worley, the assistant superintendent for school leadership in W-JCC Schools, told the students.

She noted because of this opportunity, they will be able to go to work right out of high school, continue their education at any number of schools, or explore the health-care fields even more.

“Learn about all the opportunities that are out there for you,” she said.