PHCC to Expand Health Programs

December 11, 2003

Bulletin Staff Writer

More Students to be able to Fill More Jobs

Patrick Henry Community College will expand its nursing and other health care programs to serve more students and fill more jobs in the community with the help of a grant from The Harvest Foundation.

The foundation awarded a $466,850 grant to the college Tuesday.  The grant amount will divided over a three-year period.

"We have identified certain areas that have the most potential for employment for students who go through the program," said Kathleen Smith, vice president of instutitional advancement at the college and executive director of its foundation, which will administer the grant.

Most displaced workers seek retraining in nursing or information technology fields, but "the problem is we can't accommodate them all.  This grant will allow us to take in more of these people," Smith said.

She added that in the past, nursing was considered low-paying, hard work with long hours.  "Now they see opportunity; the field has changed tremendously," she said. 

According to a July survey of job openings in a 50-mile radius of Martinsville, there were 469 openings for registered nurses, LPNs, certified nursing assistants, lab technicians, med-techs, physical therapy assistants, radiology technicians, respiratory techs, surgical techs and pharmacy techs.

To train students for those and other jobs in health are, Smith, the grant proposal includes:

  • Developing a new practical nursing program to expand the number of licensed practical nurses (LPNs) locally.
  • Expanding the nurse aide program to create more assistants.
  • Strengthening the associate degree in nursing program, which leads students to become registered nurses (RNs).  Scholarships will be given to all students who successfully complete one year in the program so they can continue their education and their RN status.
  • Recruiting more people into nursing and allied health fields by hiring a recruiter and marketing specialist.  They will attend career and job fairs and work in the schools to make students aware of career options in the health care field.
  • Strengthening all existing science courses.  A new chemistry/physics lab will be created and another biology faculty member and nursing clinic instructor will be hired.
  • Researching new programs to be developed here, with a medical lab technology program being the most likely at this point.  That area was identified in the job survey as having openings.
  • Working with economic development entities to promote the work force's skills and training, which will match new health care jobs coming into the area.

The college's associate degree program has 95 students enrolled-an increase of 25.37 percent over the last five years.  Enrollment is limited by the number of faulty members and clinical facilities, according to information from the college.

The college's nurse aide program regularly enrolls 90 students per year, college officials added.

"There seems to be a real need in the community and it dovetails well with The Harvest Foundation's mission," Smith said.  "We believe we can help them fulfill their mission in health care, and we're in an area where we don't have a lot of alternative resources for expensive health care training."

Harry Cerino, executive director of The Harvest Foundation, agreed.  The Harvest Foundation is investing proceeds of the $150 million sale of Memorial Health Systems and is spending the earnings to improve the health, education, and welfare of the area.

"The eye is focusing on training programs where there are jobs in the community and a need in the community," Cerino said, calling the grant a "win-win" for both foundations.

The PHCC foundation grant was one of 12 grants announced Tuesday as the foundation dispersed a total of $1.3 million in donations.  Last August, The Harvest Foundation awarded 15 grants totaling $2.5 million.

Cerino said Wednesday that the amount awarded depends on applications.  There is no set amount of money to be given at each of the quarterly board meetings, he added.

Board members are Donald R. Hodges, president; Michael P. Haley, immediate past president; W. Clay Campbell; William D. Lewis; Simone H. Redd; Eliza H. Severt; Douglas I. Payne, vice-president; Marshall W. Stowe, treasurer; Robert M. Davis; W. Dan Prince III, secretary; Joseph A. Roach; and Paul B. Toms, Jr.


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