November 3, 2021

Allied health eyes new programs, expanded classes


by Kylie Avery

As health care shortages are occurring nationally, the Center for Programs in Allied Health (CPiAH)  at VUMC  is on a mission to create greater opportunities for people to serve and grow in health care to meet the needs of the industry.

Allied health encompasses health care specialists who represent nearly 60% of the health care workforce. These credentialed professionals perform supportive, diagnostic and therapeutic health care services that hospitals rely on daily to promote health and prevent disease.

CPiAH  was created in 2016 and presently houses five fully accredited programs, including cardiovascular perfusion, diagnostic medical sonography, medical laboratory science, nuclear medicine and dietetics internship.

Peggy Valentine, EdD

There is a need for more allied health professionals, and it is estimated that a 10% growth in new jobs will occur annually over the next 10 years, said Peggy Valentine, EdD, Vice President of Allied Health Education.

“There are more than 800 vacant allied health positions at VUMC. The need for respiratory therapists, pharmacy technologists, surgical technicians and many others is increasing, and there are not enough professionals being produced to fill some of the open positions. We have the unique opportunity to expand our workforce by preparing more of these professionals and partnering with other institutions to meet this growing demand,” Valentine said.

This need is being driven by major technological advancements, an evolving and innovative health care system and public demand for services, especially in communities where health care is not equitable.

Allied health professionals have an important role in reducing health disparities and promoting wellness for all, said Valentine.

To address the demand, CPiAH is conducting a needs assessment to develop recommendations for new program offerings, expanding class sizes of existing programs and developing partnerships where feasible to address workforce shortages.

The Medical Laboratory Science Program already has plans to double its current class size of 12 students by 2023.

Approval of a Title IV application will allow more students to pursue an allied health education through federal funding to offset educational costs.

“These are exciting times in allied health as we create innovative educational opportunities to address our needs. It’s a win-win for the communities that we serve and our institution,” Valentine said. “A strategic plan is being developed, and input from our constituents will be helpful as we plan for the future.

“Raising awareness of allied health programs is incredibly important. There is just about something for everyone in allied health given the numerous entry points to a variety of careers. There are opportunities to provide direct or indirect patient care, to serve on the business side of health care and to offer supportive health care services.”

Individuals can begin their health care journey upon high school graduation and enter the workforce in a matter of months as a phlebotomist or medical assistant.

Those who started college and stopped can return and apply their credits toward an allied health certificate or degree.

Career laddering is possible as one gains “stackable credentials” that range from certificates to doctorate degrees.

Nov. 7 -14 celebrates and recognizes more than 7 million allied health professionals in the U.S. who are major contributors of the health care system.

“As we grow and further develop career opportunities through allied health education, we can contribute to and support VUMC, one of the largest and most comprehensive academic medical centers in the Southeast,” Valentine said.